Northern Ireland

Belfast demonstration held 'to protect war memorials'

Protest to protect statues in Belfast on Saturday 13 June Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Organisers say it was not a protest and they were there to protect and defend only

Several hundred people have taken part in a "protect our statues" protest outside Belfast City Hall.

Organisers say it was set up to defend war memorials amid attacks on statues of historical figures across the UK in recent days.

Memorials have been targeted during anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US.

Police say there were several different protests across NI on Saturday and no arrests or fines were made.

Saturday's demonstration in Belfast was organised to coincide with a possible Black Lives Matter rally, which did not happen.

The crowd, mainly of men wearing face masks, stood at the front of City Hall for over an hour before singing the British national anthem and quietly dispersing by about 14:00 BST.

Organisers say this was not a protest or a political movement, and they were there to protect and defend only.

The Belfast Cenotaph is located in the grounds of the City Hall, which have been shut during the coronavirus lockdown.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There were some violent scenes on the streets of London on Saturday

In London, police were pelted with bottles during confrontations with demonstrators who said they were protecting statues from anti-racism activists.

On Friday, statues in the city's Parliament Square including of Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were boarded up to prevent them being targeted.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gray said: "Different groups representing a variety of causes gathered at a number of locations across Northern Ireland today (Saturday 13th June), which police attended.

"Due to the nature of the different protests and gatherings, community police continued to engage, explain and encourage people to comply with the Health Protection Regulations.

"No arrests were made, and no fines or Community Resolution Notices were issued today.

"However, we had a substantial evidence gathering operation in place, and evidence gathered will now be reviewed and we will work with our partners in the Public Prosecution Service as appropriate."

People were fined for taking part in Black Lives Matter protests in Belfast and Londonderry under lockdown restrictions last weekend.

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