5 August 2004 Edition
Loyalists riot after PSNI raids
Serious rioting broke out in the loyalist Village area of South Belfast on Friday night 30 July after the PSNI arrested two men in connection with racist attacks orchestrated by unionist paramilitaries.
The men were arrested after the PSNI carried out raids on homes in Glenmachan Street and took a number of items for forensic examination.
Gangs of loyalists then gathered at the Donegall Road and stoned passing motorists. The nearby Broadway roundabout and the Westlink were closed to traffic during the trouble, which lasted 90 minutes.
One of those arrested was later released without charge, while the other was freed pending a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Ironically, the violence flared just hours after community groups in the Village launched a summer festival aimed at improving the image of the area, which has seen 90 racist attacks carried out against ethnic minorities this year alone.
Pressure has been growing on unionist political and community leaders to take a pro-active role in combating these increasing numbers of racist and sectarian attacks.
The six-day festival is being organised by the Greater Village Regeneration Trust (GVRT), which covers an area stretching along the lowere Donegall Road and south to Tates Avenue. GVRT chair Tommy Morrow said the festival was a direct response to the increasing number of racist attacks.
Meanwhile, in response to a second night of trouble on Saturday evening, the PSNI sealed off Glenmachan Street, prompting the DUP's Ruth Patterson, chair of the Belfast District Policing Partnership, to say "the people of the Village area were frustrated by the policing operation".
Ignoring the wider issue of the racist attacks, she said: "It appears the PSNI went into the area in quite a heavy handed way and that sparked off disturbances."