The PSNI has used stop and search powers against the people of two small north Belfast communities more than 4,500 times in six years, according to official police statistics.
The figures, obtained in a Freedom of Information request by the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective group, found that the 4,597 ‘stop and search’ detentions were carried out in the Ardoyne and Oldpark areas between January 2009 and January 2015, or more than twice a day.
GARC, which has been at the frorefront of protests against sectarian marches along the Crumlin Road past the Ardoyne shopfronts, said the number of detentions for such a small area in such a limited timeframe was “staggering” and part of “ongoing PSNI harassment and intimidation of local residents”.
GARC described the legislation used to carry out the detentions as “draconian” and said they have also discovered it has been used in 262 raids on homes in the area over the same time period, or just under once a week.
GARC said those raids were “invasions” that traumatise children and are “carried out at all hours of the day by heavily armed masked men”.
The FoI also found that under the legislation, and again in the same timescale, 144 people have been subjected to arrest and interrogation, with only two convictions resulting.
That is about once a fortnight that residents of Ardoyne and Oldpark have been “trailed from their families by gunmen to face torture at Antrim Detention Centre”, according to GARC.
“These figures, from the PSNI themselves, tell the truth. That the people of Ardoyne and the Marrowbone are facing daily harassment, intimidation, home invasions and militarisation of their area by a sectarian force continuing the tactics of harassment, intimidation and torture that their forerunners in the RUC also implemented. Same Aim, Different Name has never sounded more appropriate.
“GARC hereby call on all local political parties, youth and community organisations to analyse these figures and cease their support, promotion and endorsement of the PSNI. They need to answer their own question from the victims of State Harassment in this area.
“Are you standing with us, or against us?”