Two boys, aged 12 and 15, were arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour after the police dealt with public disorder at Lanark Way in west Belfast.
A protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol had been planned in the area on Wednesday.
Officers were deployed to Lanark Way shortly after 5 pm.
Police said “disorder broke out involving both sides of the community and continued for several hours”.
Wheelie bins were burnt on the road and missiles were thrown at police officers and police vehicles.
There were no reports of any injuries to members of the public or police officers but a number of police vehicles were damaged after being attacked with masonry.
Police said order was restored by about 10..30 pm.
The two boys have been released on bail.
A police spokesperson said an evidence gathering operation is now under way to identify others involved in the rioting.
Chief Inspector Darren Fox said: “The disgraceful scenes of disorder seen this evening put members of the public and the responding police officers in real danger and must be condemned by all.
“The totally unacceptable behaviour by those intent on trouble caused significant inconvenience to the local community and only served to heighten community tensions across the area.
“I would like to thank local community representatives and youth workers for their influence and assistance in preventing further disorder.
“I would appeal for those involved in disorder to consider the choices they make in coming out onto the streets to attack police, property and their own communities.”