Police attacked amid flag row in Northern Ireland

Police attacked amid flag row in Northern Ireland

BELFAST - Reuters
Police attacked amid flag row in Northern Ireland

Pro-Britain protesters sit near a burning car in east Belfast. Police said around 1,000 people rioted after the vote on removing the British flag. AFP photo

Police were attacked in Belfast on the night of Dec. 10 by loyalists enraged by a decision to remove the British flag from Belfast City Hall, which has sparked eight consecutive days of protests.

Around 2,000 pro-British loyalists rallied in central Belfast on Dec. 9 for the return of the British flag to the roof of city hall after a vote by Irish nationalist councilors from Sinn Fein and the SDLP to remove it sparked a week of rioting. The decision by councilors means Britain’s ‘Union Jack’ flag will now fly on 17 days during the year, as is the case at the provincial assembly at Stormont in the British-controlled province.

About 15 masked men broke out of a crowd assembled in the predominantly Protestant Newtownards Road area, smashed the windows of a police car and threw a petrol bomb into it while an officer was still inside, police said.

The officer escaped unharmed but the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said they were treating the attack as attempted murder.

The attack was one of a series of protests across the city on Dec. 10 during which stones and fireworks were hurled at police, who responded with water cannon in at least two locations.

Rioting charges
Violence has raged for seven of the last eight days since the decision, in Belfast and around the and nearly 30 officers have been injured. About 10 people have appeared in court charged with offences linked to the rioting, the youngest just 13 years of age.

Violence between the province’s mainly Catholic republicans and pro-British Protestants, which has raged on and off for three decades, largely ended since a peace agreement signed in 1998, but much of Belfast remains divided along sectarian lines.