POLICE are on high alert on Friday as Union flag protestors plan to bring Northern Ireland to a halt with province-wide street protests.
Organisers of ‘Operation Standstill’ have called on supporters to take to the streets en masse on Friday to show their opposition to Belfast City Council’s decision to only fly the Union flag on designated days.
They believe that dozens of planned protests will stretch PSNI resources to the limit as they ratchet up their campaign to have the Union flag hoisted again over Belfast City Hall.
The Ulster Protestant Voice (UPV) group which first organised the protests is garnering support both home and abroad for its Union flag campaign.
UPV leader and former RAF sergeant Jonny Harvery used social media networks on Monday night to muster more support for the street protests despite calls from political leader to bring them to an end.
Hours earlier the 32-year-old admitted to UTV Live that he had “lost control” of the protests.
However, Mr Harvery later went on Facebook to address his group calling for more people to be deployed onto the streets.
On Thursday, Mr Harvey quit as the UPV leader to join the Progressive Unionist Party.
‘Operation standstill protests are planned to run for an hour from 6pm at venues which include: north Belfast, Newtownards, Bangor, Portadown, Ballynahinch, Rathcoole, Dundonald, Newtownards Road and Larne.
However, there are said to “multiple” other areas which have not yet announced details of the protest.
Said a source: “This is the element of suprise. We want to catch the police on the hop and stretch them as thinly as possible across Northern Ireland.
“Loyalists are very angry at the removal of the flag. But this is only the thin end of the wedge.
Northern Ireland has been quiet on Wednesday and Thursday after five consecutive nights of rioting in east Belfast.
Police said the violence was being orchestrated by individual senior UVF figures in the area.
Politicians had called for an end to the rioting so that meaningful dialogue could take place between unionists and loyalists;
On Thursday, the Unionist Forum held its first meeting at Stormont which was attended by representatives from across the Unionist spectrum.
As a result, a Task Force has been set up and eight working groups established to carry out face-to-face talks with grass roots loyalists over problems affecting their areas.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said he hoped the working groups would “hit the ground running” on Friday.