Riots in Belfast injured several people, including police officers and protesters, while 11 people were arrested on Saturday night. Trouble started on Friday when a contentious parade was banned from a north Belfast flashpoint.
The Orange Order brotherhood took to the streets to protest, battling with police. The fraternity was to host an annual anti-Catholic parade on July 12, which always causes tensions between the Order and the Irish Catholic minority.
In the past four years, Irish republican militants have attacked police after the Orange parade passed by Ardoyne — the most divided part of northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast.
British authorities ordered the Orange Order to avoid the stretch of road closes to Ardoyne this year, then enforced it by blocking the parade route with armored vehicles.
Rather than move the parade, Orange leaders took the move as a challenge. They rallied thousands of supporters to the spot, where some attacked the police. So far, 32 officers, a senior lawmaker, and at least eight protesters have been injured in the Belfast riots.
Chief Constable Matt Baggott blamed the Orange Order brotherhood’s leaders for inciting the violence, which included six hours of street battles in two parts of Belfast. Baggott added that the leaders behaved very recklessly and should be held responsible for the riots.
First Minister Peter Robinson appealed on Sunday for the Belfast riots to stop. The Orange Order called for the suspension of demonstrations early on Saturday, but the riots haven’t ended. Robinson backed the suspension, saying:
“It’s very important that this violence stops. It’s very important that cool heads prevail in these circumstances and I hope people will obey the announcement and statement by the Orange Institution that people should desist from violence.”
Officers were attacked on Saturday night with petrol bombs, fireworks, laser pens, and stones. In response, they fired 10 baton rounds and deployed water cannons. Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford also announced that rioters “will be brought to justice quickly and face the full rigors of the law.”
The warning has likely caused several wounded Belfast rioters to avoid hospitals, where they can be identified and arrested.
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