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Man charged with riot as 30 petrol bombs thrown at police during night of loyalist unrest in Antrim

The violence comes after eight people were arrested and 27 police officers injured during riots in Belfast and Derry on Friday night.

A car hijacked by loyalists protesters burns in Newtownabbey
A car hijacked by loyalists protesters burns in Newtownabbey
Image: PA

Updated Apr 4th 2021, 5:32 PM

A 47-YEAR-OLD man has been charged in relation to rioting that took place on the streets of Northern Ireland in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim last night. 

The PSNI says that man was charged with riot and throwing a petrol bomb, as police say a total of 30 petrol bombs were thrown at officers last night/ 

It followed a second night of disorder in the province as police responded to a number of stations. 

Three cars were hijacked and set on fire in the loyalist O’Neill/Doagh Road area yesterday evening as a large crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the unrest.

Police say that the crowd consisted about about 20-30 people and included “younger people and older men, some of whom were wearing masks”. 

Video footage also emerged of cars being hijacked and burned out and a police van being targeted.

The PSNI has said that a total of 30 petrol bombs were thrown at police and three vehicles were set on fire. 

Police appealed for calm in the area and asked anyone with any influence in the community to try to ensure young people do not get caught up in criminality.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland also called for an end of the violence, saying people destroying their own communities is “not the way to protest or vent”.

“This was an orchestrated attack on police who were carrying out their duties to help protect the people of Newtownabbey,” North Area Commander Chief Superintendent Davy Beck said this morning.

My officers put on their uniform every day and go out into the community they serve, not knowing what lies ahead of them. However this does not deter them from turning up every day to do their duty.

The violence comes after eight people were arrested and 27 police officers injured during riots in Belfast and Derry on Friday night.

Fifteen officers were injured in Belfast, while 12 officers were hurt in Derry after being targeted by mainly young people.

Derry City and Strabane Area Commander Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones said police received reports on Friday night of youths gathering in the areas of Nelson Drive and Tullyally in the city.

There was also a fifth successive night of disturbances in the unionist Waterside area of the city.

Twelve officers were injured by a large group of youths and young adults throwing masonry, bottles, petrol bombs and fireworks in the city.

In Belfast, two boys aged 13 and 14 were among eight people arrested in connection with riots in a loyalist area of Belfast on Friday night.

Police said last night that seven people including three teenage boys had been charged with riot over the Sandy Row disturbances.

Four adults – three men, aged 25, 21 and 18 years old, and a woman, aged 19 – are also due to appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court later this month.

Three teenagers, aged 17, 14 and 13, are due to appear at Belfast Youth Court on the same date.

Police said 15 officers were injured on Friday night after being targeted by a crowd of mainly young people in Sandy Row, throwing stones, fireworks, flares, manhole covers and petrol bombs.

Belfast District Commander, Chief Superintendent Simon Walls, said “a small local protest quickly developed into an attack on police officers” and that at points there were up to 300 people of all ages on the streets.

He called for calm, urging anyone with influence in the loyalist community to dissuade young people from causing violence and harm.

He said: “I’m not going to enter into dialogue about political commentary.

“What I would ask is that people with influence, people in local communities, would dissuade young people, or anyone else, intent on causing violence or intent on harming police officers.”

He described it as a “real tragedy” that children as young as 13 and 14 were among those arrested.

Political leaders called for calm over the Easter weekend following the riots.

Stormont’s First Minister Arlene Foster urged young people “not to get drawn into disorder”, saying violence “will not make things better”.

“I know that many of our young people are hugely frustrated by the events of this last week but causing injury to police officers will not make things better,” the DUP leader said.

“And I send my strong support to all of the rank-and-file police officers that are on duty over this Easter weekend.

“I appeal to our young people not to get drawn into disorder which will lead to them having criminal convictions and blighting their own lives.”

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Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis described the unrest as “completely unacceptable”.

“Violence is never the answer. There is no place for it in society,” he said.

“It is unwanted, unwarranted and I fully support the PSNI appeal for calm.”

Alliance Party MLA John Blair has also condemned the violence and called for calm.

“This is to be utterly condemned and has happened at this location, for different reasons, previously. A need for calm and for parents to check where their children are,” he said.

The disorder has flared amid ongoing tensions within loyalism across Northern Ireland.

Loyalists and unionists are angry about post-Brexit trading arrangements which they claim have created barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Tensions ramped up further this week following a controversial decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Féin politicians for attending a large-scale republican funeral during Covid-19 restrictions.

All the main unionist parties have demanded the resignation of PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne, claiming he has lost the confidence of their community.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly claimed the latest disturbances were “a direct consequence of the actions of political unionism”.

“The disturbances in loyalist areas across the north are an outworking of the DUP’s rhetoric and undermining of the PSNI and criminal justice system,” he said.

“By their words and actions they have sent a very dangerous message to young people in loyalist areas.

“The DUP and political unionist leaders need to show leadership and end the incendiary rhetoric.” 

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