Anti-internment protest to go ahead after parade ban

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A decision to ban a march commemorating internment from reaching Belfast city centre is to be resisted, according to the republicans involved. They say they will hold a protest at Belfast City Hall at the time the march was due to be held.

The Parades Commission, which is tasked with deciding the routes of contentious parades, banned the march. It made the decision even though no loyalist protest had been organised.

The organisers of the march, held to mark the anniversary of internment without trial in 1971, had planned to walk from the north of the city centre to west Belfast via Belfast city hall.

In its ruling, the Parades Commission said notification of the parade was “late” and that it had “received substantial objections”, without providing details. Lawyer Michael Brentnall said he was appealing the decision on the basis that it breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Anti-internment League (AIL), an umbrella group of republicans and others who hold the event annually, confirmed the planned parade has been called off and a rally will instead be held at Belfast City Hall.

AIL spokesman Dee Fennell said the ruling was not unexpected.

“This attempt to ban republicans once again from our streets was anticipated and, as discussed and agreed by organisers, will be resisted,” he said.

“Republicans will not be excluded from an area that regularly plays host to marches by loyalist paramilitaries, Loyal Orders and the British Crown Forces.”

There are fears the PSNI police under new Chief Simon Byrne could decide to “take on” the annual event on Saturday. A crackdown by riot police at a nationalist anti-internment bonfire in north Belfast on Thursday had the support of a swathe of mainstream politicians and media, leading to claims that there is increasing nationalist support for large-scale Crown Force operations within their own community.

Mr Fennell said the decision to hold a protest at city hall would go ahead and is not illegal. He also said it does not have to be notified to the Parades Commission.

“The Anti-Internment League hereby give notice that we will not adhere to state restrictions on our right to assembly, to protest and to political expression,” he said.

“We withdraw our intention to march to and from City Hall, and instead we shall assemble there and demonstrate our opposition to internment and our support for republican prisoners.”

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