At least four police officers have been injured after sectarian tension spilled over into violence in Belfast tonight.
Trouble erupted close to a north Belfast flashpoint as the Orange Order protested against the decision to ban a contentious July 12 parade past an interface.
Police were pelted with bits of masonry, bottles and other missiles during clashes with loyalists.
We would emphasise that there is an element within these crowds that is intent on violence— Police Service NI (@PoliceServiceNI) July 12, 2013
Police said four officers had been injured as they dealt with ``serious public disorder''. Water cannon has been deployed and non-lethal rounds known as Attenuated Energy Projectiles fired.
The Parades Commission – the adjudicating body set up after the Good Friday Agreement peace deal – had banned marchers from a 300 metre stretch of the Crumlin Road past the nationalist Ardoyne area.
Three lodges from the Ligoniel area were able to walk the contested route this morning but were prevented from making the return journey.
Serious rioting has erupted after previous Orange Order evening marches in Ardoyne. Last year shots were fired at police who also came under sustained attack from petrol bombs thrown by republican protesters.
A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman said: “Police are dealing with serious disorder in the Woodvale Road area of North Belfast. Water Cannon has been deployed. Members of the public are advised to avoid the area.
Meanwhile, motorists are advised to avoid the area of the Lower Newtownards Road in East Belfast due to a build up of crowds in the area.
North Belfast Democratic Unionist MP Nigel Dodds said: ``This sort of situation here creating a bottleneck at this junction, the Parades Commission decision to block it here, this is the inevitable outcome.
“The police were well aware that was the danger the Parades Commission had put them in. I would appeal for everybody to stay calm, not to get involved in violence. The Grand Lodge have made it clear they do not want violence and the people who want to engage in violence should desist immediately.”
Loyalist bandsmen, may highly intoxicated, played sectarian tunes at police lines while bricks and bottles were thrown.
At one point a rioter broke down a section of wall and threw it at police shields. Others used sticks and pieces of drainpipe to batter police vehicles while some danced on top of the force’s Land Rovers and tried to rip off protective plating.
Scenes from north Belfast pictured by @newsmantone land rovers being climbed on pic.twitter.com/oL0n50YQee— Claire Graham (@JournoClaire) July 12, 2013
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly blamed the violence on the Orange Order and unionist politicians.
“Speech after speech at the various (Orange) demonstrations were clearly designed to stir up sectarian tension and have alongside the Orange Order’s failure to abide by Parades Commission determinations led directly to the violence in Belfast tonight.
“No amount of hand wringing or denial in the coming days from the Orange Order and unionist politicians can alter that reality.
“People had a right to expect better, instead what we got was a very deliberate strategy with the inevitable results being seen on the streets this evening.”