FOUR PSNI officers have been injured as police collegues came under attack with petrol bombs after a number of Union flag protests on Friday evening.
Police fired in total five plastic baton rounds and loyalist rioters hurled 33 petrol bombs at PSNI lines.
One injured police officer needed hospital treatment. Over 70 officers have now been injured since the start of street disorder.
It is reported that a 300-strong peaceful protest in Carrickfergus has turned ugly with running battles between some protestors and police in West Street.
Police have large numbers in the area along with two water cannon.
Loyalists claim police have responded with baton rounds.
“Their response is way over the top. Talk about heavy handed tactics,” said a loyalist.
However, this is disputed by police who say officers are dealing with a “serious public order” situation and have asked motorists to avoid the area.
A 500-strong crowd had gathered in east Belfast but it remained peaceful and protestors moved off the road.
The loyalist source added: “These are co-ordinated attacks to spread the PSNI resources as thinly as possible across as many areas as possible.”
Police have reported a number of roads across the greater Belfast area have been closed because of protests.
The O’Neills Road roundabout at Cloughfern, Newtownabbey has been closed due an outbreak of rioting following a protest. One police officer has been injured during the trouble at Cloughfern.
It is estimated a crowd of around 300 are involving in attacking police.
A security source: “It is heavy going. Officers are being attacked a continuous shower of petrol bombs.”
A bus has reportedly been hijacked and set on fire in the area.
And a police landrover has also been hit with a petrol as trouble erupted on the estate.
Police have come under attack with petrol bombs, bricks and fireworks.
The PSNI has now deployed water cannon into the area to disperse rioters.
Translink have withdrawn all Metro services in Belfast except the NO 10 to west Belfast. There will be no further services in Belfast on Friday evening except the NO 10.
It is also being reported that a GP, on his way to visit a sick cancer patient, was twice turned away by protestors.
The other roads include: Following roads have now re-opened-Ormeau Rd at library; Newtownards Rd at McDonald’s Templemore Ave /Knock Road at junction with Glen Rd.
* the Ormeau Road at the public library (now re-opened);
* the Newtownards Road at McDonald’s (now re-opened);
* the Ravenhill Road at junction its junction with My Lady’s Road.
* the Upper Malone Road at Malton Drive;
* Sandy Row;
* Templemore Ave (now re-opened);
* Hesketh Road;
*the Knock Road at junction with Glen Road (now re-opened).
At 7 pm, the PSNI said that the Westlink between Broadway and Grosvenor Road has been closed due to a security alert.
The road has since been re-opened and police have revealed that a small viable pipe bomb type device was removed for examination
A further security alert Creighton’s Rd, Dunmurry closed at junction of Stewartstown Road and Old Golf Course Road due to security alert.
Earlier, it was a battle for the hearts and minds of the public on Friday evening.
‘Operation Standstill’ – the organised province-wide protest against the decision to only fly the Union flag at Belfast City Hall on designated days got underway at 6pm.
And for the first time, those opposed to the Union flag protests launched their own rallying call on social network sites: ‘Operation Sit-In’.
It was organised to support the hard-pressed pub, restaurants and shops in Belfast City Centre who watched £15 million out the city’s economy since the protests started after the council’s decision on December 3.
At one point, the idea had received more than 12,000 retweets on Twitter as people were urged to vote with their feet and go out and support licensed premises instead of sitting in in buses and cars in gridlock travel.
Horatio Todd’s in east Belfast has come up with a ‘Operation Sit-In’ cocktail to mark the occasion.