SIX ARRESTED, POLICE FIRE BATON ROUNDS AS RIOTING ERUPTS IN EAST BELFAST FOR A FIFTH NIGHT

Poilce in Bryson Street, Short Strand on Monday evening

Poilce in Bryson Street, Short Strand on Monday evening

LOYALISTS from across Belfast massed on east of the city on Monday night as further violence erupted.

It follows clashes between nationalists and loyalists following a Union flag protest at Belfast City Hall.

Police six people – two men and two women – were arrested for public order offences in east Belfast.

The Police Federation – which represents ranks and file police officers said: “Tonight professional PSNI officers were again attacked by rioting thugs in east Belfast.

“Rioters used axes, hammers, lasers and masonry.”

In a statement, the PSNI said that missiles ranging from petrol bombs, paint bombs, fireworks and heavy masonry were thrown at police officers on Monday night.

Vehicles were also attacked with hatchets and sledge hammers.

“Water cannon was deployed and 5 AEP’s (plastic baton rounds) were discharged,” a PSNI statement confirmed.

“Two police officers were injured. Police also received a report of an attempted car hi-jacking in the Templemore Avenue area and attempted lorry hi-jacking in the Albertbridge Road area,” the statement read.

Around 400 protestors gathered on the lower Newtownards Road as trouble erupted.

Nationalist residents and loyalist protestors clashed again at the Short Strand interface with police responding with water cannon.

The trouble started in the Dundonald area where a protest was behind held at Robbs Road.

As well as petrol bombs, officers have also come under attack from other missiles.

Bins have been set alight and sent hurtling into the middle of the road as a stand off continues.

The violence came as around 2,000 loyalist protestors converged on Belfast City Hall on Monday night amid a heavy police presence.

They marched up May Street only to be met by a necklace of steel in the form of riot police and landrovers blocking off the rear exit to the City Hall.

Landrovers filled the rear courtyard and officers have been deployed on the rear gate and inside to thwart any further storming of the building.

The protest passed off peacefully and marchers dispersed.

Loyalists claim that on their way back into east Belfast nationalists attacked them with golf balls.

However, nationalists claim loyalists attacked homes in the Short Strand as they returned to east Belfast.

A standoff developed in Bryson Street and police used three water cannon to disperse crowds.

Poilce in stand off with loyalist protestors on Newtownards Road

Poilce in stand off with loyalist protestors on Newtownards Road

Loyalists claim the PSNI were using “heavy handed tactics” against Union flag protestors.

Loyalists from Sandy Row and the Shankill later headed to east Belfast on Monday night to “show solidarity with fellow loyalists”.

Police deployed water cannon against protestors who were blocking the Newtownards Road.

City councillors met for the first time on Monday night since the council voted on December 3 last year by 29-21 to only fly the Union flag on 17 designated days.

Following the vote, rioting erupted on the streets outside the City Hall and masked protestors stormed the rear grounds.

A security guard was assaulted during the trouble and a car belonging to DUP councillor Guy Spence was damaged.

During Monday evening’s meeting, the leader of Sinn Fein on the council, former IRA man Jim McVeigh said: “These protests are pointless and will not effect the decisions made in this chamber.

“We will respect British culture but it cannot be all one way.

DUP councillor Robin Newton said east Belfast has had a very bad week says and called for an end to the flag protests.

“There’s another political way forward,” he added.

And party colleague Christopher Stalford said the advice council received from Equality Commission that flying flag on designated days would help community relations “wasn’t worth 2p”.

DUP councillor and former deputy mayor Ruth Patterson told the chamber that she had received calls from Catholics, clergymen and “former Sinn Féin voters” who were horrified at decision to remove union flag.

Belfast Daily understands police were on high alert for trouble in east Belfast following the meeting.

Intelligence warned that nationalist youths in the Short Strand are armed with golf balls to attack protestors as they head back from the City Hall into east Belfast.

Police also understand that the leadership of the UVF in east Belfast met on Monday.

The organisation is under pressure from residents in the lower Newtownards Road to “defend” them from the PSNI’s Tactical Support Group (TSGs).

One loyalist source told Belfast Daily on Monday evening: “There is going to be mayhem tonight in east Belfast.

Police in riot gear move into east Belfast on Saturday evening

Police in riot gear move into east Belfast on Saturday evening

“All UVF in east Belfast have been put on standby and if the police push any off the street there is going to be mayhem.

“They are going to hit the PSNI really hard tonight (Monday). They are ready and waiting to give the PSNI the beating of a life time.”

Earlier on Monday, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott said he was concerned that senior UVF figures, acting individually, had orchestrated four days of violence in east Belfast.

 

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