THE ULSTER People’s Forum founder Willie Frazer has been remanded in custody on Friday.
Frazer, a key organiser of the Union flag protests, was formally charged on Thursday evening at Musgrave Street PSNI station with public order offences and having an offensive weapon.
The 52-year-old faced Belfast Magistrates Court to face a total of six charges during the 15 minute hearing.
He smiled to family, friends and supporters as he was led into the dock.
One supporter waved a flag during the hearing but a security guard quickly ushered him out.
Frazer is charged with possession of an offensive weapon, namely a stun gun cattle prodder, addressing a public assembly in Donegall Square in Belfast encouraging and three charges of participating in an illegal parade.
In Mr Frazer’s hearing, the police objected to bail on the basis that the defendant might encourage more protests in the future.
His defence lawyer Richard Smyth said Mr Frazer was not before the court for organising parades and that he did not believe he was taking part in any unlawful ones.
Defence barrister Richard Smyth argued that his client had urged the crowd at BelfastCity Hall to “keep it peaceful”.
Mr Smyth insisted: “What this applicant is alleged to have said at the scene wasn’t in any way inflammatory.”
He also pointed to the accused’s clear record and raised issues about his health.
Dealing with the stun gun allegations, the lawyer said Mr Frazer had taken it from people involved in a dispute in Markethill, CountyArmagh, a number of years ago.
He believed it was a cattle prodder that didn’t work, the court heard.
Mr Smyth added: “This man’s profile, and I accept he does have a profile, has brought him before the court.”
District Judge Mervyn Bates said he was refusing bail based on the more serious charges of encouraging offences and having a prohibited weapon.
He told Mr Frazer: “The grounds of objection are founded on the frequency of this kind of offence at the current time and the harm it is doing to the economy of this country.
“Given everything I have heard about this matter… I do not consider you to be a suitable candidate for bail.”
He told the defendant he could apply for High Court bail.
As Mr Frazer was led away from the dock, he told the judge: “No thank you your honour I’ll stay in jail”.
There were claps from the public gallery.
The former director of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR) was remanded in custody to Maghaberry prison to appear back in court in four weeks time.
The decision to charge Willie Frazer and arrest Jamie Bryson prompted the Ulster People’s Forum to end contact with senior PSNI chiefs.
In a statement obtained on Thursday night by the Belfast Daily, the UPF accused the PSNI of “political policing” over the arrests of two of its founding members.
And it claimed police had broken promises not to arrest people if they moved away from street protests and carried out ‘white line’ demonstrations instead.
Jamie Bryson remains in custody at Musgrave Street PSNI station following his arrest on Thursday evening in Bangor, Co Down.
The loyalist figure had been in hiding for over 24 hours after police searched his Co Down home and community offices in Bangor’s Kilcooley estate on Wednesday and towed away his car.
He posted a video on YouTube on Wednesday to defiantly tell the police: “No Surrender.”
Officers from the Operation Dulcet inquiry team had the power to arrest Mr Bryson on the spot when they called at his door in North Down on Wednesday morning.
The Ulster People’s Forum statement posted on Facebook to supporters said: “We feel that after attempts and negotiations with Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr, Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum, UPF committee members and the Rev Mervyn Gibson, a change in our stance must now be made.
“In said negotiations, we were assured that if street protests moved to whiteline protests, the P.S.N.I. would accommodate this.
“The group was also assured by ACC Will Kerr that all those people who police would be intent on persuing on civil disobedience charges, said charges would “fall off his desk”.
“Since these negotiations with the P.S.N.I., around 80% of protests did move to whiteline with a dramatic decrease in violence.
” However, following further conversations between our committee and CS Alan McCrum, the P.S.N.I. seem intent on raising tensions with their latest statement saying a further 300 people are to be arrested this saturday and walks (both on footpath and roads) into Belfast City Hall on saturdays will no longer be facilitated.
“So, due to the political policing that is being forced upon our community, the committee of the Ulster Peoples Forum will no longer be in negotiation with the P.S.N.I.
“The Ulster Peoples Forum feel after attempts at negotiating ways to keep our own people out of courts and prison, the P.S.N.I. are still working on behalf of SF/IRA to take away our human rights and freedom of peaceful protests.
“Jamie and Willie have asked the Ulster Peoples Forum to make it clear that they are no more important than any of those who have been arrested and that people should remember that when they take to the streets.
“For all those who have went through the ordeal of police brutality, please remember, that Ulster and other parts of the UK are with you in solidarity,” concluded the statement.