Protests in Belfast regarding the new rule on limiting the flying of the Union Jack over Belfast’s City Hall incited a sixth night of violence in East Belfast on Tuesday. The flag, however, was raised for the first time this year on Wednesday to honor the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s 31st birthday.
Protests began in Belfast last month when the government opted to place a limit on the amount of days the Union Jack could be flown over Belfast’s City Hall, knocking it down from year-round to only 17 days. Wednesday was the first day this year that the flag was hoisted above City Hall, and will be taken down later this evening.
BBC reports that the PSNI said in a statement that officers were attacked with petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and golf balls on the Newtownards Road, before a crowd of about 150 protesters moved into Templemore Avenue on Tuesday night.
The statement also said that "from helicopter footage it became clear that individuals had forcibly entered a building owned by East Belfast Community Development Agency” and vandalized the facility.
Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum said on Wednesday, "Last night we saw a number of people on the streets who were intent on engaging in violence.
"They showed no regard for the local community and forcibly entered a premises that is being developed as a multi-purpose community site."
He added: "Police are committed to bringing those who engage in criminal activity before the courts. Since last Thursday alone, 32 people have been arrested on a range of public disorder offences."
Since the Union Jack protests began on December 3, 107 people have been arrested due to violence during protests or riots, and 82 of those people have been charged. Further, 66 police officers have been injured.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: "Consensus politics has to be the way forward and I think what is happening in Belfast is damaging.”
"It has set us back and is a reminder of the dark days of the past. We need to find a better way of dealing with these issues at local government level."
As the protests and riots continue in Belfast, the scheduled protest for Dublin for this Saturday has since been postponed. The Dublin protest that was to be held outside of Leinster House under the organization of Willie Frazer has been pushed back citing a lack of time to organize.
Pastor Barry Halliday of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair), who has been assisting Willie Frazer in the organization of the demonstration, told The Journal on Wednesday that: “Dublin wasn’t going to work out, it was all a rush job, and it was going to achieve nothing only trouble for the gardaí. The feeling was we need to show a bit of courtesy to the police of our nearest neighbor.”
“The gardáí have been very helpful, I spoke to the chief superintendent in charge of the operation and he was very helpful."