Freedom of assembly denied, but anti-internment message is heard
Freedom of assembly denied, but anti-internment message is heard


Thousands of republicans staged a peaceful protest after an anti-internment parade was barred from entering Belfast city centre last Sunday.

A massive British security operation was put it place after the Parades Commission banned the march from making its way into the city centre on Sunday.

Participants walked until stopped by a solid line of PSNI Land Rovers and riot squads at the junction of Divis Street and Barrack Street in west Belfast.

Three groups from the head of the parade turned their backs on police lines and held up banners in support of republican prisoners, imprisoned Palestinian hunger striker Bilal Kayed, and the miscarriage of justice victims known as the Craigavon Two. Marchers and supporters cheered as the crowd listened to speeches.

The Anti-Internment League had applied for the now annual march - which also marks the anniversary of the introduction of detention without trial on August 5 1971 - to walk from Andersonstown in west Belfast to City Hall. However, the march was barred from entering the city centre in a move seen as an attempt to silence the campaign.

Paul Crawford from Cogus, which represents prisoners aligned to Republican Network for Unity, spoke about the case of Tony Taylor, who is currently in Maghaberry Prison on the order of the British government as a “risk to the public”.

Joanne Donnelly from the Justice for the Craigavon Two campaign spoke in support of Brendan McConville and JP Wootton, wrongly convicted over an IRA attack in 2009!.

The short rally was brought to a close when some of those attending joined in with a musician to sing the Men Behind the Wire - an anti-internment anthem from the 1970s.

Community activist Gerard Fitzpatrick, who told the crowd that internment continues today, hailed the parade as a success.

“We had thousands of people walking down the Falls Road showing their opposition to internment,” he said.

“We are disappointed that the quango of the Parades Commission made a determination that this was a contentious parade. This was not a contentious parade.

“The message is clear about smashing internment, and not just here.”

After the parade, members of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association made their way to city hall where they held a short protest and handed out leaflets to passers by.

Mr Fitzpatrick this was done to “let them know this is our city hall too and we will engage with the public and highlight the issue”.

The organisers say they will take legal action against the Parades Commission.

They believe the refusal to allow the demonstration into Belfast city centre breached their Article 11 rights under the European Court of Human Rights which protects the right to freedom of assembly and association.

Organisers had intended to take legal action over the decision last week but were refused legal aid.

A lawyer for the Anti-Internment League, Michael Brentnall, said a civil case may now be taken.

“As a result of the refusal of access to the court and an effective remedy before Sunday’s march our client has instructed that we commence a civil action against the Parades Commission on the basis that the decision by the PC to restrict the march from Belfast City centre was entirely disproportionate,” he said.

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© 2016 Irish Republican News