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PSNI over response to Black Lives Matter protests condemned by Derry and Strabane council

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The PSNI’s different handling of protests by Black Lives Matter movement and right-wing ‘protect our statues’ members was highlighted

The PSNI’s different handling of protests by Black Lives Matter movement and right-wing ‘protect our statues’ members was highlighted

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

The PSNI’s different handling of protests by Black Lives Matter movement and right-wing ‘protect our statues’ members was highlighted

The PSNI’s different handling of protests by Black Lives Matter movement and right-wing ‘protect our statues’ members was highlighted

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

The PSNI’s different handling of protests by Black Lives Matter movement and right-wing ‘protect our statues’ members was highlighted

Police have been slated by councillors for their handling of Black Lives Matter protests.

Derry City and Strabane District councillors voted to "condemn" the PSNI's enforcement action, and for all fines and threats of legal action to be dropped.

The motion, brought by People Before Profit's Eamonn McCann, said the "disruption" at rallies "contrasted with the inaction of the PSNI in the face of large gatherings on beaches and in major retail outlets over prior weeks".

It also rejects Justice Minister Naomi Long's support for action taken as being "proportionate".

The PSNI has previously defended its response, which it said prevented more people from gathering and increasing the risk of infection.

The motion was supported by PBP, Sinn Fein, SDLP and independents. Alliance, Aontu, UUP and DUP voted against.

The PSNI gave out 57 fines at Guildhall Square on June 6.

Just over a dozen penalties were also handed out at the rally in Belfast.

The motion questioned the "disparity" in the response between Derry and Belfast, and supported the Ombudsman's review into police enforcement of Covid-19 regulations, which was sparked after right-wing protesters at subsequent "protect our statues" rallies were spared fines.

It also recognised the "exemplary" work of the organisers, North West Migrant Centre, which has welcomed the council's stand.

In a statement Mrs Long said the restrictions were to protect people's health, not for "restriction of liberty".

She added: "The policing of gatherings and enforcement of health regulations are operational matters for the police.

"If anyone has concerns about policing approach they should raise those with the Office of the Police Ombudsman or with the NI Policing Board, who are responsible for police oversight. Both bodies are currently undertaking reviews of police operations over the period of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It is vital for the maintenance of community confidence and public reassurance that the police are accountable for their decisions and open to scrutiny.

"I would urge people to continue to avoid large gatherings and respect the regulations, which are designed for the protection of health, not the restriction of liberty."

Last night, commenting in response to the criticism, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: "The policing operation on the day was conducted in a professional and proportionate manner.

"We were very clear in our messaging ahead of these protests that people should not attend them and the consequences for doing so - breaching the health protection regulations and putting public health at risk.

"Where a fixed penalty notice has been issued, the recipient may decide to pay the fine or contest the matter through the courts."

Belfast Telegraph