Police starting its security operation ahead of this afternoon's controversial republican parade

Police starting its security operation ahead of this afternoon’s controversial republican parade

THE PSNI has rolled out a massive security operation ahead of this afternoon’s controversial republican anti-internment parade in Belfast.

Up to 2,000 police officers have been put on standby as police chiefs fear the parade will descend into violence.

Around 5,000 loyalists from three separate groups are expected to hold a counter protest in Belfast city centre.

Police say they are concerned about speculation that the organisers may not comply with a Parades Commission determination.

The PSNI said they had made attempts to talk to the group themselves, but they had not been successful.

The march has been organised by the Anti-Internment League, to mark the introduction of detention without trial during the height of the Troubles.

Up to 9,000 participants and supporters are expected to attend the parade.

The Parades Commission has imposed a timing restriction on the parade,

It said the parade “must have fully cleared the Divis Street/Millfield junction by 1.30 pm”.

The organisers intend to delay the start of the parade until 2 pm.

There is speculation police may not let the parade start if it does not comply with the ruling.

The police have appealed to those behind parade to “engage with us”.

In a statement, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: “As in previous years, the PSNI are committed to ensuring that we keep people safe and that the parade and associated protests pass off peacefully.

“On this occasion, the Parades Commission has exercised its statutory functions and decided to impose certain conditions on the parade.

“I am very much aware that there is significant speculation in the media and online that the parade may not comply with the conditions imposed in the Parades Commission’s determination.

“Over the past number of days we have tried to liaise with parade organisers. At this time we are still seeking confirmation from them as to whether this speculation is well-founded, and whether statements attributed to them are correct.”

He said he was “again urging the organisers, or a representative speaking on their behalf, to engage with us”.

In 2013, the parade descended into violence when 56 police officers were injured, including a police dog.

Scores of loyalists later faced court and were jailed for rioting.

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