A LOYALIST mob threw missiles at police officers on Thursday evening when trouble erupted following a Union flag protest in Ballymena.
The trouble comes as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flies into the eye of a political storm whipped up in Belfast over the Union flag.
The violence broke out after about 150 people descended on the Town Hall in the Linenhall Street area for a protest over the removal of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall.
Most of the crowd dispersed as it concluded but a small number remain in the area.
Police say they are liaising with local community representatives regarding the situation in efforts to restore calm.
There was also reports of crowds gathering in the Harryville area and motorists took diversion tactics to avoid it.
The Ballymena protest came despite a plea from DUP First Minister Peter Robinson for all protests to be suspended.
On Thursday afternoon, the PSNI warned some businesses in Lisburn near an Alliance Party office that they were expecting trouble on Friday.
Mr Robinson’s plea fell on deaf ideas as hardline loyalists had agreed a plan to escalate its protests from Belfast to unionist and loyalist towns across the province.
The first protest started at Justice Minister and Alliance Party leader David Ford’s office in Glengormley as riot cops looked on.
Pupils at Hightown Primary School in Glengormley were allowed home at lunchtime to avoid the protest.
A further protest started in Ballymena and also one at Hesketh Road in north Belfast.
Earlier, staff at the Boys Model School in north Belfast were sent home home early because of a planned protest in Ballysillan on Thursday evening.
Police are expecting other protests in Carrickfergus and Newtownards on Thursday evening as loyalists plan to stretch PSNI resources to their limit.
An Alliance Party recall of the Assembly to discuss attacks on party offices in Carrickfergus and Bangor, along with a paint bomb attack on the home of two councillors did not receive the backing the DUP, UUP and Sinn Fein.
Instead, a joint statement from the First Minister and deputy first minister will be read out on Monday morning at the Assembly.
The arrival of Hillary Clinton on Friday will cause an extra security headache for the PSNI who are trying to manage resources to quell loyalist trouble.
The US Secretary of State will be briefed by US Consular officials on the current political situation in Northern Ireland.
However, this week’s violence will overshadow her last trip to the province as US Secretary of State.