Belfast Telegraph

Londonderry united as hundreds attend rally to demand end to riots

By Leona O'Neill

Several hundred people took to the streets of the Bogside last night to call for a halt to the street violence in Londonderry.

More than 70 petrol bombs and two blast bombs were thrown at police officers in and around the city's historic walls on Thursday - marking the city's sixth night of disturbance.

The Chief Constable George Hamilton blamed the New IRA for orchestrating the trouble - some of which involved children - and said someone would be killed or seriously injured if it did not stop.

Later, residents joined Church, civil and political readers at the scene of the worst of the disorder at Fahan Street and Butcher's Gate.

A podium was placed on the road and the crowd was addressed by the Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown who called for the trouble to end.

He said: "You cannot claim to love your country and at the same time cause pain and destruction to the people who live there."

City Centre Initiative Manager Jim Roddy told those gathered that the community wanted to move on together.

"We had to have this rally, we can't really leave it another day," he said later.

"What happened over the last six days was unacceptable but what happened last night was frightening and worrying, and it was on a different scale and we felt we had to do something.

"Time will tell if it has made a difference, but we must do something.

"We just can't sit back and condemn and do nothing. I hope it works."

Mayor of Derry and Strabane, John Boyle said that it was important that the young people behind the violence heard the "voice of the city".

He said: "It is a different way of bringing people out onto the street to that with which we witnessed over the last number of days.

"This is a positive message, it is a powerful message. It is about coming together. It is about civic, Church and political leadership.

"However, the voices who spoke here were the people, reflecting on what the people of this city are saying so loudly and so clearly - that they want this activity to stop."

Earlier in the day dissident republican group Saoradh accused politicians of "hypocrisy", blaming the Government and constitutional parties for sectarian division and economic hardship in the city .

But on a visit to the Bogside, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said that the violence was "thuggery, criminality and manipulation".

"What we have witnessed here is a cynical, calculated manipulation of young people," she said.

"And in some cases very young children for a warped agenda that serves no useful purpose at all to society.

"What we have seen here is a deliberate strategy from those who would style themselves as dissident republicans to misuse, mislead and manipulate children and to cause fear, hardship and anger across this community.

"But what they have also created is a sense of determination, because this is Derry and because the Bogside is the Bogside and the people aren't having it."

DUP MLA Gary Middleton said that the gangs, which had initially attacked the Fountain were now terrorising residents in the Bogside and instilling fear in the community.

He said: "People don't want that. They want to live at peace with their neighbours.

"But they are afraid to speak out against it, for fear of attack. And that leads on to intimidation, and we know that there is a lot of intimidation going on.

"Bogside residents very much despise what is going on in their area, and they are very much embarrassed by it."

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party's Justice spokesperson, Doug Beattie urged the police and the justice system to go after the people who are orchestrating the latest outbreak of rioting.

"What we are seeing in Londonderry is not representative of the majority of the people who live there," he said.

"However, it is no good just saying this in an attempt to minimise what has been happening over the last six days in the city.

"What we have had from day one - in fact from a number of weeks previously - is orchestrated rioting by violent republicans in order to create a reaction from the police to justify their actions.

"It is quite deliberate and it is straight out of the republican terror manual, where grown men coerce children to do their vile dirty work for them.

"These so called brave men and women sitting at home or in the pubs drinking, hide in the shadows, while children destroy the reputation of the city and those that live in it, must be targeted by the PSNI and justice system."

Petrol bombs and gunshots... how a troubled week unfolded

SATURDAY 7th: Dozens of petrol bombs thrown at police and at houses in the unionist Fountain estate — the last non-nationalist area on the west bank of the Foyle.

SUNDAY 8th: On Sunday night a group of between around 15 to 20 youths targeted the mainly Protestant enclave, with around 40 petrol bombs being thrown.

Petrol bombs also thrown at Alexander House, an assisted living facility for elderly and vulnerable people.

MONDAY 9th: More than 100 people gather in the Bogside to show their support for residents of the Fountain area in the wake of the weekend attacks. More than 25 petrol bombs thrown at police later in the evening. Two officers are injured.

TUESDAY 10th: Six shots fired at police officers. PSNI condemns “blatant bid to murder”.  More petrol bombs and paint bombs thrown.

WEDNESDAY 11th: Fire crews come under attack, more petrol bombs thrown at police. A burning barricade is pushed across the Lecky Road flyover.

THURSDAY 12th: 75 petrol bombs thrown at police: PSNI respond using baton rounds. Former First Minister Arlene Foster says: “Really disturbing scenes in Londonderry. Someone will be killed if this continues.”

FRIDAY 13th: Political figures, business people and civic leaders hold a rally in Fahan Street, outside the city’s walls, calling for an end to the violence.

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