Violence broke out in the Northern Ireland city of Belfast over the weekend. What is being labelled as sectarian violence appears to be in response to a marching band playing sectarian music in a primarily Catholic neighborhood.
Despite an order banning them, a loyalist band marched through predominately Catholic areas of Belfast on Sunday, playing sectarian songs according to UPI. A republican flute band, who had already received permission for a parade, responded by marching past an Orange Hall in North Belfast. Outraged that the republican band parade did not have any restrictions placed on it, the loyalists, who are traditionally Protestants, reacted violently, throwing bricks and other projectiles at members of the republican band and their supporters, the BBC reports.
Police had gathered in the area, but had not been notified of any protests or violence.
Loyalist's parade in Belfast Ireland
Responding officers witnessed bricks being thrown and talked to community representatives to try and reduce tensions and facilitate the lawful parade. They then moved the crowd back towards Carlisle Circus so the parade could pass. Protesters then turned their anger towards police. The BBC reports Molotov cocktails, bricks, fireworks and stones were thrown at police. ABC News says rioters from the Protestant group hijacked a van at one point and pushed it at police lines. Nearly 50 police officers were injured, four of whom required medical attention at a local hospital.
Police responded to the rioters by firing plastic rounds and using a water cannon to try and disperse the crowd in the Carlisle Circus area. RTE News quotes Police Service of Northern
Riots break out in Belfast
Ireland (PSNI) Chief Superintendent George Clarke as saying "I am both angry and sad that my officers have been subjected to such significant attack. They showed tremendous courage in the face of enduring violence." He continued by emphasizing that those involved would be held to account for their actions.
"I am urging all individuals and communities affected by recent events to take a step back. Violence has serious and unwanted consequences for us all. We must work harder at finding solutions through talking and accommodation. We cannot continue to see the lives of our community and our police officers put at such risk. Every hour of disorder in Northern Ireland not only puts lives at risk, it also reduces confidence in our community and wastes huge amounts of money that could be better spent on schools and hospitals. Violence cannot be a solution."