Loyalist protesters tried to storm Belfast City Hall after the Belfast City Council voted to take down the Union Jack over the hall except for seventeen special days in the year. They also attacked St. Matthew’s Catholic Church near the downtown Belfast location.
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It is the first time in over a century that the Union Jack will not fly over the city.
The vote was 28-21 with the vote along Unionist/Nationalist lines except for the centrist Alliance Party who came up with the 17 day compromise.
Hundreds of Loyalists, lured by Twitter and Facebook messages, took to the streets burning Irish Tricolors and trying to kick down the back door of city hall.
Police were forced to use batons and police dogs to try to curb the riot. Two officers were injured and a security guard was hurt.
Cars belonging to members of the council were burned.
Sinn Fein’s Jim McVeigh told the Irish Independent, "The people that broke through the gates are a bunch of thugs. They physically assaulted the staff, tried to attack members of the police and they attacked property.
"We are not responsible for the thugs. We won't be intimidated by those people."
Ulster Unionist Jim Rodgers said he expected violence.
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"There is a real anger," he said. "I cannot condone violence but people do not realise just how strongly the people in Northern Ireland think about flying the flag over City Hall."
Maire Hendron from the Alliance Party said the violence was planned.
Sam McCrory, 24, from Belfast, said, "For me, flying the Union flag is not something that is up for negotiation.
"We should be able to come into our city hall to see the flag flying. I see the removal of the flag as a first step towards the breakdown of the union."
Sam Jackson, 69, a retired builder, stated: "While Belfast is still part of the UK, the flag of the country should be flown. A compromise is not acceptable."
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson attacked the rioters. "There is no excuse or justification for attacks on police officers, council staff, and property. Such behaviour is not representative of those who campaigned to maintain the Union flag flying over Belfast City Hall."
"The decision to pursue the removal of the flag from City Hall and other council buildings, despite warnings of the likely consequential impact on community relations, was foolish and provocative. Those who talk most about building community relations have by their actions in the council substantially damaged relations across the city."
Here's a video from An Phoblacht and Sinn Fein TV of the attacks on City Hall:
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