Plastic bullets fired as Derry riots escalate
Plastic bullets fired as Derry riots escalate


A sectarian parade through the centre of Derry provoked heavy rioting in the city last night as youths threw petrol bombs and the PSNI responded with potentially lethal plastic bullets.

At least two teenagers were injured by the projectiles, including one who was struck in the throat and had to be rushed to hospital.

Earlier in the day, a sectarian parade by the anti-Catholic Orange Order passed was forced through the centre of Derry, an overwhelmingly nationalist city. There was high tension in the city centre as flute bands played sectarian tunes to cheers from loyalists.

There was no organised protest and the parade had the support of two main nationalist parties, the Sinn Fein and the SDLP. However, there was anger as local residents were pushed away from the parade route and kept corralled behind police barricades.

After dusk, an escalating stream of incidents by nationalist youths saw more and more petrol bombs thrown in the direction of PSNI Landrovers. Crowds of up to 200 were reported by 9pm as numbers swelled, and a burning barricade was set up on the Lecky Road flyover and on Fahan Street.

The PSNI counted a total of 74 petrol bombs thrown, although few were seen to hit their target. At least one bounced off a passing civilian van in an apparent attempt to hijack the vehicle.

The PSNI also said it had fired four “baton rounds” and accused militant republicans of using the cover of rioting youths to mount attacks. It claimed two “explosive devices” had been thrown at them in an “attempt to murder police officers”.

Earlier on Thursday morning, as violence escalated ahead of the Orange Order parade, the PSNI said shots had been fired towards their position high on the city walls. On Friday, they said they had also found “crude but viable” devices in the Bogside nearby. No armed group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Politicians in Derry condemned the violence but notably did not condemn the PSNI’s use of plastic bullets. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the riots were “terrifying people in their own homes”.

“These people who are supposedly republicans, who are supposedly trying to get a United Ireland are destroying their area,” he said.

Sinn Fein’s Elisha McCallion said “sinister elements” were spurring on the violence.

“People in the Bogside were afraid for their lives last night,” she said. “This has gone beyond recreational rioting, this is disgraceful and those involved in it and indeed those behind the scenes stirring up this type of activity, need to catch themselves on.”

British Direct Ruler Karen Bradley said: “The disorder in Derry last night, including targeted attacks on police vehicles and others, was completely unacceptable. These sustained attacks have been widely condemned and must end.

“My full support goes to the PSNI and others who are working so hard to end this intolerable violence by a small minority.”

In Belfast, flute bands breached a Parades Commission determination by playing music outside St Patrick’s Church in Belfast, but other ‘Twelfth’ parades by the Orange Order passed off without incident.

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