The homes of republican youths in Derry are currently the focus of a PSNI crackdown following several nights of clashes around a major sectarian parade through the city centre.
A major policing and British Army operation is continuing in the Bogside area after two explosive devices were recovered in searches on Friday.
Dozens of British soldiers were involved and last night saw terrifying raids involving both troops and armed and masked members of the PSNI.
A video was posted online of one violent arrest in which armed and masked members of PSNI were assaulting a 16-year-old.
Saoradh in Derry said “British militia” had forced their way into the child’s family home.
“Crown Force personnel assisted by the British Army subsequently cable tied the young male, dragged him outside, beat him and hauled him off to Musgrave interrogation unit,” they said.
The raids come after a week of escalating violence which began with small-scale disturbances involving missiles being thrown over the peace line with the Protestant Fountain estate and at the PSNI.
The length and intensity of the clashes escalated to the use of petrol bombs, which were responded to by plastic bullets.
Up to six live rounds directed at the PSNI on Wednesday night have been widely attributed to the ‘New IRA’, as were explosive devices thrown towards police vehicles on Thursday.
PSNI Chief Constable Hamilton said it had been “an operational decision” to fire plastic bullets on Thursday night. At least one was fired at head height, striking a youth just below the throat.
“There’s a long history of use of baton rounds in this jurisdiction and it is much safer now than previously,” he claimed. “We don’t want to use these against communities, we have to act in a proportionate manner, but we need full range of tactical options available to us.”
In a significant departure, there was no criticism of the use of plastic bullets by Sinn Fein as the party condemned the violence and backed the PSNI crackdown.
In scenes reminiscent of a previous generation, Sinn Fein organised a ‘peace rally’ in the Bogside which heard denunciations of the rioting and the militants accused of being behing the trouble.
Sinn Fein leader Mary-Lou McDonald said: “We need to send a strong message to those responsible that they do not act in our name. That they will not succeed”.
She said: “What we have witnessed over recent days has been a sustained attack on this city and the people of this city.
“As political leaders, as community leaders, as trade unionists, Church leaders, business people and as citizens of this beautiful city, we must stand shoulder to shoulder and demand an end to it.”
Saoradh said it abhorred sectarianism but condemned the British Crown Forces for using a sectarian disturbance “to launch attacks on Republican Free Derry”.
“When the political elite in Derry come together to utter mealy mouthed condemnation they engage in the worst form of hypocrisy, like parasites they live of the sectarian divide that blights the Irish people,” they said.
“Armoured convoys” had entered the area and that people were being attacked and “snatched indiscriminately”.
“Saoradh activists who had been trying to prevent sectarian attacks were targeted..the Republican Bogside were forced into defensive action.”
It noted media reports that the PSNI and British Army had been “engaged with grenades” and that the incident of automatic rifle fire came “from an individual who identified himself as ‘Derry Brigade IRA’”.
They added: “The failed Northern State is a sectarian entity, it is sectarian by design, it is the outworkings of the classic divide and conquer strategy of British imperialism.”
“The working class youth of Derry both Catholic and Protestant have been attacked by all quarters this week for the outbreak of sectarian violence, the youth of Derry have grown up in sectarian segregation, they have grown up in one of the most economically deprived areas in Western Europe, this sectarian division and economic hardship are not natural phenomena they are intentional strategy and policy emanating from successive British Governments and the constitutional Parties that administer British Rule in Ireland.”