Dozens Injured in Northern Ireland as Protestants Riot Over Blocked Parade Route

Posted By: July 13, 2013

New York Times. Saturday, July 13, 2013 Peter 
Morrison/Associated Press
Police officers, with reinforcements from across Britain, 
were deployed in north
Belfast as Orange Order members rioted.

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Hundreds of police
 reinforcements from Britain were
deployed Saturday on Belfast’s rubble-strewn streets after
 Protestant riots over a blocked march left 32 officers, a
 least 8 rioters injured.

Northern Ireland’s police commander, Chief Constable 
Matt Baggott, blamed leaders of
battles in two parts of Belfast that lasted six 
hours and subsided early Saturday.
had had no plan for summoned.

The fraternity’s annual July 12 marches always 
raise tensions with the Roman of the capital.

This year the British authorities ordered the marchers 
to avoid the stretch of road
nearest Ardoyne, an order that the police enforced by 
blocking the parade route with
seven armored vehicles. Orange leaders took that as a 
challenge and rallied
thousands of supporters to the spot, where some attacked 
police vehicles and the
lines of heavily armored officers behind them.

Chief Baggott said the Orange leaders behaved recklessly and 
should not duck responsibility for the mayhem.

“Having called thousands of people to protest, they had 
no plan and no control,”
said Chief Baggott, an Englishman who has commanded the Police 
Service of Northern Ireland since 2009.

Orange leaders said the blockade decision was the problem, not 
the fury of their own
members. But they backed off their original threat to mount 
indefinite street
protests across Northern Ireland and ordered a suspension of
 protests early
Saturday. The order’s leaders declined requests for interviews.

Nigel Dodds, north Belfast’s Protestant member of Parliament 
and an Orangeman
himself, had gone to the riot’s front line to appeal for
 calm and was knocked
unconscious by a brick that fell short of police lines.
 He was
 released from the
hospital on Saturday.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said it 
transported eight 
wounded civilians
from the riots. But other rioters are likely to have 
stayed away
 from hospitals,
because those admitted for riot-related injuries can be
identified and arrested by the police.

Britain’s cabinet minister for Northern Ireland, 
Theresa Villiers, said it was
“vitally important for the Orange Order to
 make clear now that their protests have
come to an end.”

“It would be disastrous if we were to see a recurrence of 
last night’s violence over
the next few days,” she said.

The July 12 parades officially commemorate a 17th-century 
battlefield victory by the
Protestants over Catholics. But in practical terms, 
the mass military-themed
mobilizations — including 550 on Friday alone — provide
 a graphic annual test of
whether Protestants still wield control in a land 
where the government and the
police for decades were almost exclusively

On Saturday, 400 more officers from England, Scotland and Wales
 arrived to lift the
police force’s strength on the streets above 5,000, including 
more than 600 British officers already here.

This is the first time police officers from other parts of 
Britain have been
deployed against Northern Ireland rioters. The approach stems 
from Northern
Ireland’s recent hosting of the Group of 8 summit meeting, 
when officers from
Britain received anti-riot training before that brief, 
uneventful assignment here last month.

But the sudden need for reinforcements also suggests that the
 Northern Ireland
police, though riot-savvy and heavily armed, lack the numbers
 to cope with the seasonal flare-ups of mob violence.

Since the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998, 
the Northern Ireland
 police force has
been cut nearly in half and, since 2007, British troops have 
stopped providing
backup as part of wider efforts to normalize the situation. 
Once overwhelmingly
Protestant, the police force is now 30 percent Catholic.

Such rapid changes have rattled Protestants and contributed
 to a rising alienation
from the police, most vividly shown during widespread street 
blockades throughout
December and January. The reason then was a surprise decision by
 Catholic members of
the Belfast City Council to reduce sharply the flying of the
 British flag outside
City Hall. As with the increasing restrictions on Orange Order
 parade routes,
Protestants saw the move as further challenging the public 
expression of their
British identity.

During Friday’s street fighting, rioters shouted anti-Catholic
 and anti-Irish
epithets at officers and mocked their allegiance by draping their vehicles in the
green, white and orange flags of the Republic of Ireland.