FIRST Minister Peter Robinson on Friday night has condemned the street violence which has erupted for two nights running in east Belfast.
As he issued a statement over the rioting, police came under fresh attack in the Albertbridge Road are from petrol bombs, missiles and fireworks.
Poilce deployed its ‘Hawkeye’ helicopter and water cannon trucks to restore order in the area.
At one stage a small scuffle broke out after a police snatch squad moved in to make an arrest.
The DUP leader said on Friday night: “The violence and destruction visited on the PSNI is a disgrace, criminally wrong and cannot be justified.
“Those responsible are doing a grave disservice to the cause they claim to espouse and are playing into the hands of those dissident groups who would seek to exploit every opportunity to further their terror aims,” he said.
Last month, Belfast councillors voted to limit the number of days the Union Flag is flown over City Hall – a decision which the DUP leader has described as “ill-considered and provocative”.
“All right-thinking unionists will want to channel their energies into political activity and to support the cause of finding political solutions to the problems that we face,” Mr Robinson said.
“The real purpose of those who claim to speak for some of the organisers of the protests is fast becoming clear,” he added.
“It is a straight-forward politically motivated attempt to undermine the DUP as the voice of unionism despite our attempts to oppose the removal of the Union Flag in Belfast.”
Mr Robinson and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt have set up a Unionist Forum to hold talks with disaffected loyalist community groups and leaders.
However, as Belfast Daily first revealed last week, a rival ‘Ulster People’s Forum’ was set up Willie Frazer and supporters who oppossed the mainstream Unionist Forum.
The group has now 3,500 followers on Facebook who have promised to turn out for a flag protest at Belfast City Hall on Saturday, January 5.
The group met in secret in Newtownards on Thursday night and formed a ten-man committee among whom include Bangor’s Jamie Bryson, Willie Frazer and former RAF sergeant Jonny Harvey.
In a statement the Ulster People’s Forum stated: “Representatives of the Ulster People’s Forum met tonight in Newtownards to discuss the growing frustrations felt by many grass roots Protestants across Northern Ireland.
“At the well attended meeting, people from all six counties agreed a definitive set of aims and objectives to create a mechanism to drive the current protests forward into 2013.
“Among a host of other demands the Ulster People’s Forum called for:
1) A return to direct rule because of the failing of our political representatives
2) The Union Flag to be flown from every Council building across Northern Ireland
3) Police Service of Northern Ireland to refrain from the physical abuse of peaceful protestors and to stop the present political policing
4) An immediate end to appeasing the anti British nationalist socialist agenda by the persistent undermining of Protestant Unionist Loyalist culture, heritage and traditions
“Although the Ulster People’s Forum seeks a genuine solution to the current problems highlighted by the flag protestors and others, it was clearly demonstrated that many Protestants feel that nationalist socialist Sinn Fein has acted outside the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
“Therefore the Ulster People’s Forum in their demand for equality and parity of esteem have stated they intend to increase the protests across the Province, to include protests outside political offices and if necessary homes of politicians and others, and will no longer be prepared to stand by and allow peaceful demonstrations to be attacked by PSNI or nationalists.
“A new committee has also been established to produce a long term strategic protest plan which will give clear guidance to local communities about working collaboratively to ensure future protests are coordinated to create maximum impact and show Stormont and Westminster that the Protestant people have said, “Enough is enough!”