Belfast Telegraph

PSNI reject claims they were 'heavy handed' during Co Armagh parade

By Gareth Cross

The PSNI have rejected claims that they acted 'heavy handedly' during a parade at Markethill in Co Armagh on Friday night.

Victims campaigner William Frazer said that he was "disgusted" by what he called "heavy handed ninja tactics" during the Kilcluney Volunteers Flute Band annual parade.

"We are disgusted with the police’s behaviour during the parade in Markethill tonight," Mr Frazer said.

"The heavy handed ninja approach taken by them and in some cases searching bags and sniffing lemonade bottles was totally uncalled for and unacceptable.

"I doubt they would behave in the same manner in Crossmaglen. I don’t blame the individual officers it’s their superiors."

Police responded to the claims on social media and shared images of the large amount of alcohol seized during the parade.

"Last night we had a parade in Markethill. As always, the communication and links with the organisers were second to none, and they ran a tight ship in terms of minimum disruption to the town and a family event," a PSNI spokesperson said.

"They openly discouraged any behaviour, including of course drinking, along the parade route, and indeed commented favourably on our action in making sure their efforts were upheld. A commendable job by them.

"However, a few individuals have chosen to capitalise on their own lack of knowledge of the law to paint us as, in some mysterious way, "heavy handed". Quite possibly for a point scoring exercise, but certainly out of step with the organisers and those truly associated with the event."

The PSNI said that they acted in an appropriate way to ensure the parade progressed smoothly.

"Last night, people could have been fined or reported to the council for many such offences, but a more sensible approach was taken. People were told to take their pints back inside licensed premises," the spokesperson said.

"People with unopened bottles on the parade route were told to go and put it in the boot of their car. Those who were openly drinking in the street though, or who tried telling us we couldn't, did have it taken from them.

"It must be said that the vast majority of those who were spoken to and had drink taken from them weren't even from our district. When you're on our patch, you play by the local organisers rules and, as some learnt last night, telling us we can't take your drink won't win the argument, nor will it keep you your drink!"

They accused critics of the event of trying to point score and hit back at implications PSNI officers at the event were from a nationalist background.

"The photo here (linked above) is just some of what was seized last night, so for the irresponsible who would claim that this didn't happen, stop trying to point score. To also assert that officers are from a certain background simply from looking at them is disgusting in the extreme, a pitiful example to set to youngsters, and carelessly irresponsible.

"In the last month in this district, extremes on both sides of the good old "themuns" debate have accused us of being one sided and heavy handed. Both cannot be right. It won't surprise most to know that both are wrong. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the realms of common sense - that we will deal firmly but fairly with anyone breaking the law regardless of who you are, where you are, or what you profess to be."

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