A LOYALIST riot involving 100 people was an attempt to destroy community relations, says the Alliance Party.
Five PSNI officers were injured during what police described as “serious disorder” in Newtownabbey, County Antrim on Friday night.
Trouble broke out on the Carnmoney Road at about 20:30 GMT on Friday when up to 100 people, believed to be loyalists, attacked police.
They threw bricks and bottles and a hijacked car was set on fire.
It is understood loyalists tried to take down a number of Irish Tricolour flags put up ahead of republican Easter Rising celebrations when they were confronted by police.
The rioters attacked a building which houses the constituency office of the Justice Minister and Alliance Party leader David Ford.
The premises of a health and safety consultancy on the first floor was badly damaged with almost ever window smashed.
The trouble flared after what UUP councillor Mark Cosgrove described was a peaceful Union flag protest which had been held earlier in the evening.
In a statement, the PSNI said Friday night’s riot was now under investigation.
“The vast majority of people in Glengormley are adding real value to their local community, however, a very small minority are intent on causing disruption and harm.
“We need the continuing assistance and co-operation of local community groups and residents as we carry out our investigations,” the statement added.
Alliance Party councillor John Blair said: “I wholeheartedly condemn the actions of those involved in tonight’s violence.
“There is no place for this unacceptable behaviour in our society.
“No doubt the people who caused what looked like a planned outbreak of violence had a clear intent to disrupt community relations.
“The most disappointing aspect is that a lot of people are working in the area on behalf of all the community to make Glengormley a safe and successful place.
“Community, business and Council representatives alike have taken great strides towards creating a shared community, especially bringing young people from all backgrounds together.
“During the disturbances the building in which David Ford’s constituency office is based was also attacked, with damage done to the office of another tenant.
“This was a despicable attack and I would urge anyone with information to contact the PSNI as soon as possible.”
The Alliance Party has been targeted in previous loyalist violence linked to flags protests.
East Belfast MP Naomi Long received a death threat and councillors’ homes were attacked in Bangor and Newtownards.
On Monday 3 December, Belfast City Council voted to fly the union flag at city hall only on designated days.
Nationalists at Belfast City Council had wanted the union flag taken down altogether, but in the end voted on a compromise from the Alliance Party that it would fly on designated days.
Unionists said they consider the changes to be an attack on their cultural identity. A loyalist protest outside the building erupted into violence minutes after the motion was passed.
Alliance holds the balance of power on Belfast City Council, and could have voted down the original motion to remove the flag on all days.
Instead it came up with a compromise, suggesting that the Union flag should be flown only on designated days.
Street protests have been held since the council took the decision.
On Thursday, the Policing Board was told that the cost to the PSNI of watching over the parades dealing with rioting has hit the £20 million mark.
The Chief Constable said this was money which had been diverted away from tackling drug dealers, dissident republicans and major criminals.