Eight PSNI vehicles, including six armoured Land Rovers, swarmed a family home in west Belfast on Thursday night, and harassed mourners attending a wake.
The large military-style convoy travelled up the Grosvenor Road before taking up positions outside the family home of Karen Weir, who passed away earlier this week. It came just two days before her family prepare to lay Karen to rest.
Mourners said that officers had threatened to enter the wake house, while one man was stopped and searched after leaving the home. The PSNI blamed Covid-19 for their action.
Karen’s grieving son, Gerard Fitzpatrick, said that the wake had adhered to government restrictions, with limited numbers allowed inside the home. A number of mourners who had gathered outside the family home were also adhering to social distancing and wearing face masks.
Mr Fitzpatrick branded the PSNI’s approach as “unjustifiable.”
“My mummy was a well respected woman in the area, and if people want to go and pay their respects to her they can do it,” he said.
“The way those cops came last night – a cavalcade of six peeler jeeps while they had TSGs waiting on the Grosvenor Road – they came there to try and get people’s backs up, and that’s what they did, they got people’s backs up.
“Whenever our neighbours started challenging them they changed their tune. They asked ‘how many’s in there?’ and said ‘we’ll make our way in and find out.’”
He added: “How people can support them (the police) is beyond me.”
Gerard said he felt his mother’s wake was targeted by police due to the presence of local republicans.
“That’s the reason they did it,” he said.
“The cops are saying there were people outside the house and that’s why they made the approach, but they could’ve done it in a different manner.”
It was the second such incident in the space of a week. Last week, three PSNI cars also followed mourners as they carried a coffin from the same area to the cemetery, with about 30 people in attendance.
Lower Falls IRSP representative Michael Kelly described the Crown Force actions as a “disgrace”.
“The PSNI said they were responding to a report, which we know is what they are using as the excuse for their presence last night.
“Even so, is that how they usually respond to a report? By sending eight Land Rovers?”
He continued: “At a time when the PSNI are claiming to be short in numbers due to Covid sickness, how did they spare so many resources in a very short space of time?
“It is clear that this was a premeditated attack on a grieving family and on the community as a whole, and those who claim to hold these people to account have serious questions to answer.”