Belfast Telegraph

My son is too afraid to leave the house, says furious father

By Deborah McAleese

The father of a seven-year-old boy who was caught up in the CS spray controversy has told how his son has been left too afraid to leave the house.

The man and his child are both members of the South Belfast Young Conquerors, who were taking part in the junior Orange Order parade when trouble flared on the Ormeau Road on Tuesday night.

"Traumatised isn't a strong enough word to describe how my son was after that," the father said. "He wet the bed twice on Tuesday night because of it.

"He kept having nightmares about the police coming for him. His mummy has always told him the police are there to help him, but he's terrified of them now."

The man told the Belfast Telegraph how he first noticed that something was wrong when the band turned onto the Ormeau Road after walking through the Annadale estate.

"We were met by a custody wagon and I don't know how many police Land Rovers," he said. "My son leads that band. I play the flute and was quite a bit behind him. I have never run so quickly in my life when I saw what was happening.

"We were just about three minutes away from completing the parade. This police officer came over and started pushing members of our band. Our members started saying, 'What are you doing?'

"He then deployed CS spray and started swinging his baton like a lunatic. There was CS spray everywhere. The kids all scattered. They were terrified. Some of them were directly hit by the spray. That officer was out of control.

"By the time I got to my son he was hysterical. I took him home and while we were in the house he saw a police Land Rover drive past and he ran away screaming. He thought they were coming for him. He was up twice in the night, having wet the bed and having nightmares. That's completely out of character.

"He's a very outgoing child who loves going out playing football with his friends. He hasn't left the house. He is just sitting in his room playing with his action figures. I really feel for him.

"He doesn't want to go back to the band. He always loved it, going with his friends to band practice. He lived and breathed for the band. But not now."

The dad also said reports band members were "walking into cars, damaging and zig-zagging through them" were nonsense.

"There are marshals in our band," he added. "All that officer had to do was approach our marshals if he thought there was a problem.

"It was disgusting what those kids were subjected to. My son has never witnessed anything like that before. Our band has a very good reputation.

"There was one police officer there who was very helpful. He said that the officer who used the spray should never have done that. I agree."

Belfast Telegraph

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