The IRSP has slammed what it said was an “anti-community” PSNI operation in the republican Divis area of Belfast to seize a small amount of wood gathered for a traditional August bonfire.
Despite increasing opposition by older residents, youths in a small number of nationalist areas have continued to organise a bonfire on the anniversary of internment, a British military operation in 1971 in which hundreds of nationalists and republicans were imprisoned without trial and some twenty civilians were killed.
Following a dramatic siege last year by the PSNI in Belfast's New Lodge which ultimately failed to prevent a sizeable bonfire going ahead, it appeared that community efforts had succeeded in ensuring this August would see much smaller and safer nationalist bonfires, or see them cancelled entirely.
However, twenty PSNI vehicles and a phalanx of PSNI men stormed the area in riot gear this afternoon to seize a handful of pallets. In an absurd scene, a line of storm troopers pushed through pensioners and children, antagonising and provoking minor disturbances as they went.
The IRSP said its activists had already engaged with the young people present who had agreed to remove the wood themselves for safety reasons. IRSP representative for the Lower Falls Michael Kelly said, “As our activists awaited the council lorry to come and lift the wood, a PSNI drone followed by a Land Rover drove up and down the street eye-balling those present.
“We have since found out that the PSNI, when realising that the IRSP were involved in resolving the situation demanded that the council pull out of lifting the wood.
“This was followed by a squad of PSNI Robocops being dispatched to confront what is essentially a group of pre-teens.
“Why were local community activists or local youth providers not given the space to deal with this situation in a peaceful and non aggressive way?
“Why did the PSNI mobilise a squad of riot cops to try and intimidate and scare young nationalist kids?
“Their agenda is clear and the IRSP will always be to the fore in highlighting their agenda. It is all about local credibility, and the PSNI have none whatsoever. They know this as well as the rest of us.”
Sinn Féin did not comment, but Lasair Dhearg said the incident had sent a message of intimidation from the PSNI.
“Today, scores of heavily clad and armed PSNI faced off against kids and pre-teens over wood in Divis, Belfast - sending clear signals that they will swamp our communities with the support they have from constitutional nationalists, some of whom live locally,” they said.