Northern Irish police vow that “prisons will be bulging” with those responsible for violent clashes on Friday night that left 56 police officers and two civilians injured.
Bricks, bottles, fireworks, pint glasses and metal guttering ripped from shop fronts were thrown at officers by the rioting crowd, which was protesting against a Republican parade through the Northern Irish city.
Police used two watercannons and fired rubber bullets in a bid to quell the protests, which erupted in the Royal Avenue area of the city centre.
Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable Matt Baggot said: “I know that 99 per cent, if not more, of the population will stand with me in utterly condemning those who scarred the reputation of our beautiful city last night.
“Those people had no intention of peaceful protest, they lack self respect and they lack dignity.”
He added: “The only voices we should hear now are those unequivocally condemning the violence and supporting fully the actions of the police and the rule of law and I don’t want to hear any excuses for the disgraceful scenes that took place last night, because quite frankly there aren’t any.”
Britain’s minister for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, said the rioting was “shameful”.
“After success for Northern Ireland this summer as host to both the G8 Summit and the World Police and Fire Games, disorder on the streets is a hugely regrettable step backwards.”
The protests were against a rally to mark the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland during the troubles. The organisers of the Anti-Internment League parade had been given permission for the event, which would pass through the Royal Avenue area, from the Parades Commission adjudication body.
The parade was diverted around the outskirts of the city centre.
The Riot & resulting injuries to 26 Police Officers by Loyalists in Belfast must be strongly condemned & organisers identified.#NOGOINGBACK
— Martin McGuinness (@M_McGuinness_SF) August 10, 2013
Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton condemned those responsible for the violence.
“Whilst facilitating the Parades Commission determination for tonight’s parade and associated protests, police have come under heavy and sustained attack by crowds intent on creating disorder,” he said.
“As Northern Ireland moves ahead, the effect of tonight’s violence has the potential to damage the local economy and the reputation of Belfast as a tourist destination.
“As disturbances are continuing, I would call upon people of influence in communities and those in political leadership to do all possible to reduce tension.”