Great Britain deployed more than 1,000 extra police to Belfast, Northern Ireland to assist the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) as they battle riots and protests over a banned parade route for the Orange Order’s annual July 12th parades. The riots started Friday night and leaked into Saturday night.
July 12th is an important date in Northern Ireland history. It is the day Protestant William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II in England at the Battle of Boyne in Ireland in 1690. The Orange Order was founded in 1796 to commemorate this victory. Every July 12th the Order organizes a parade to celebrate King William.
Due to many conflicts in Catholic areas, the Parades Commission, which the Order does not recognize, banned their parade route through Ardoyne. This is the most bitterly divided part of the capital, and Crumlin Road divides the community between nationalists and loyalists. They were allowed to march past Friday morning, but not allowed to return in the evening.
Originally, the Order called for protests because of the decision, but quickly backed down. It did not help and peace was broken when the parade was stopped at Woodvale Road. North Belfast Member of Parliament (MP) Nigel Dodds, a member of the Orange Order, ran to the front lines to plead for calm and peace, but was knocked unconscious when a brick hit him on the head. He was released from the hospital on Saturday. Police were attacked with swords, missiles, and petrol bombs as the night continued.
The violence lasted for six hours and over 30 officers were injured. According to the UK Guardian a female officer had her leg broken and a male officer had his jaw broken.
Saturday evening was not better. The PSNI confirmed seven more officers were injured in another night of riots. None required a trip to the hospital and were treated at the scene. PSNI said they were injured with many of the same objects used Friday night. The PSNI also said they arrested more than 30 people since Friday and more will occur in days. A police helicopter captured footage at Woodvale Avenue and many of their faces are recognizable. The police will use the video to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.
Many politicians denounce the violence. Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villers wants the riots to stop. From the Guardian:
She said: “The violence last night and the night before was shameful and it is vital that calls for calm are heeded by those responsible for this violence.
“They say they are trying to defend their culture but they are not defending anything by throwing petrol bombs at police officers.”