The PSNI’s approach to loyalist violence and their efforts to incite nationalist youths in west Belfast is the subject of continuing controversy.
Seán Ó Murchú of Saoradh said while the violent loyalist protest at the Lanark Way interface last week was a clear provocation against the nationalist community, so were the PSNI’s actions against nationalists on the neighbouring Springfield Road.
“There is nothing the people of West Belfast can do about the protocol, nor are they responsible for it,” he said.
“Why was the protest not held at City Hall? Or Stormont? Or outside the offices of the DUP who helped to facilitate Brexit?
“The only obvious goal of the protest, seems to be to provoke and antagonise the Irish community on the other side of the wall.”
He said the provocation on Wednesday of last week was “facilitated and even advanced” by the PSNI police, who appeared to have the same objective as the loyalists who were protesting.
Despite the initial gathering being deemed illegal, the PSNI calmly allowed the protest to go ahead while young nationalists were being aggressively and pointlessly corraled on the other side.
“I opened my front door to the sight of the Crown Forces blocking a group of no more than ten young men into lower Forfar Street,” Mr Ó Murchú said.
“Naturally, these youths retaliated and fought back at the intimidation and unwelcome presence of the British state, which included around nine vehicles before reinforcements came, as far as I counted.
“The British agents got out of their vehicles and marched down the road in formation, banging their shields and dressed in the riot gear they had been wearing before a single stone was thrown.
“The Crown Force ‘response’ was a clear overreaction, as one angry resident shouted to the helmeted security forces, ‘There was no trouble until you turned up.’”
On the following Friday evening, at a similar time, there was another provocation.
“At the upper end of Forfar Street, the piercing bright lights of four land rovers blocking the top of the street shone down on top of another group of children who eventually began to resist the faceless forces of the British state, who had just declared themselves the enemy of the community a few nights prior, with sticks and stones,” Mr Ó Murchú said.
“After around twenty minutes of confrontation, and a brief moment of jeers and shouts of anger and unwelcome from a group of local residents, all Crown Forces units suspiciously disappeared from the area, which unsurprisingly led to calm.
“Saturday evening saw them in riot gear and in formation, blocking the streets on Clonard, for no apparent reason.”
He asked if the community were being used “as pawns” to create unrest in order to provide substance to the loyalist “whining” over the protocol.
“Political unionism is seemingly united in desperation to share the energy, food and service shortages experienced in Britain,” he said.
“If they can frame the trouble being generated by themselves and overstated by British Crown Forces as genuine disorder in the Occupied Six Counties, then they can present this to the British government as a reason to scrap the protocol, and engage the North further in the self-inflicted Brexit chaos.”
He also said those who criticised the nationalist youths who threw stones had misunderstood their motivation.
“It is hard not to become exasperated and to not retaliate when the blunt force of the British state comes into the area in which you live and traps you to provoke you and intimidate your community for a mickey mouse protest going on the other side of a so called peace wall.”