9 June 2005 Edition
PSNI attack Ballymena protestors
North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has accused the PSNI of "behaving in typical sectarian fashion" after PSNI riot squads attacked nationalists protesting against a loyalist parade through a mainly nationalist part of Ballymena on Saturday night, 4 June.
The Sinn Féin politician, who was himself verbally abused and kicked by the PSNI, says he intends to complain to the Police Ombudsman's office about the PSNI actions which he described as "reminiscent of the scenes at Burntollet during the early civil rights campaign", when RUC and Paisleyite gangs set upon nationalist marchers.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, McGuigan said that nationalist residents had gathered near Market Road as the 'Pride of the Maine' loyalist band from Ballymena held its 30th anniversary band parade.
McGuigan said everything was calm until PSNI members in armoured Land Rovers blocked roads running alongside All Saints Catholic Church and began attacking nationalist residents with batons as bandsmen emerged onto Market Street.
"The PSNI started to push and haul at a number of residents and when I and a number of colleagues tried to intervene, a PSNI member ran out of the crowd and kicked me and told me to 'Fuck Off you Fenian bastard'."
Up to six residents were injured in the unprovoked attack by the PSNI, with one man needing hospital treatment after his head was split open by a baton. The man was later arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour, while another man was bitten by a PSNI dog.
"This was a violent, provocative, intimidating and sectarian series of attacks against nationalist bystanders. It is obvious that nationalists in Ballymena are still fighting a campaign for their civil rights. The PSNI operation was an absolute disgrace and in my opinion they acted in a sectarian manner in an attempt to provoke trouble," said McGuigan.
The North Antrim politician told An Phoblacht that senior members of both the UVF and UDA had been filming nationalist residents during the triumphalist march.
"This is a very worrying development for nationalists in this area. Senior loyalist paramilitaries were able to record the faces of local residents unhindered by the PSNI," he said.
McGuigan has called for urgent meetings with both the Police Ombudsman and the Parades Commission.
"I will be asking the Ombudsman to investigate what I can only describe as the sectarian brutality of the PSNI against nationalist residents on Saturday night and I am also going to ask the Parades Commission observers who witnessed the assaults for their reports."