A Catholic man was attacked by loyalist bandsmen as he attempted to cross a city centre street during a parade last weekend.
The 23-year-old was punched several times in the head and hit in the face with a drumstick as he attempted to pass between bands on Great Victoria Street.
Up to 600 loyalists and 15 bands took part in the parade organised by South Belfast ‘Young Conquerers’ flute band in support of a loyalist protest against the nationalist Ardoyne commmunity, which opposes sectarian parades.
The parade followed a route from Donegall Pass along Great Victoria Street and though the city centre. It then travelled to the Shankill Road before ending at the ongoing loyalist camp at the interface between Twaddell and Ardoyne.
The man said he was making his way back to work at lunchtime when he attempted to walk between two bands. “A bandsman shouted “No” and grabbed me by the jacket and punched me in the face,” he said. “Two or three other guys came from behind me and punched me on the back of the head.”
As he was recovering from the assault a drummer from another band struck him in the face with a drumstick without warning, causing his nose to bleed.
“It took me aback,” he said. “A lot of marches around Belfast are about ‘human rights’ but yet you can’t cross the road to go to work.”
Sinn Fein assembly member Phil Flanagan, who knows the injured man, described it as an “outrageous act of thuggery”.
“Unionist leaders need to encourage these people to resolve their outstanding issues through dialogue,” he said.
A nationalist parade organised to highlight housing equality in north Belfast passed off without incident later on Saturday. Loyalists held two protests as the parade, which was organised by North Belfast Civil Rights Association, passed through Belfast city centre.
However, there have been reports of isolated sectarian clashes at interface areas in Derry and Belfast over the past week.
Petrol bombs were thrown by local youths in the Nailors Row/Fountain Estate area of Derry during two nights of violence on Sunday and Monday in which the PSNI police also became involved.
And last week, stones and bricks were thrown in the Workman Avenue/Woodvale area of west Belfast, causing damage to homes and vehicles. Teenagers were again blamed for the trouble.
Sean Murray from Clonard Residents’ association, on the nationalist side of the interface, said he was also attacked while walking along the Springfield Road with his wife last Thursday night.
“We would condemn these attacks no matter what side they are coming from,” he said. “There appears to have been an increase in tensions in the area over the last few weeks and I’m not sure why.”