A mini-riot erupted in Derry today after a violent PSNI arrest operation was launched against an Easter commemoration attended by thousands of republicans.
PSNI Tactical Support Groups (TSGs) attempted ‘snatch squad’ arrests inside the city cemetery after the march, one of several held this weekend to commemorate Ireland’s war dead on the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
The parade took off from around Free Derry Corner around 3pm and arrived in the city cemetery shortly before 4pm, where wreaths were to be laid on the republican plot.
A large number of PSNI armoured vehicles were present at the gates of the cemetery throughout the event, before the TSG squads attacked peaceful participants as they arrived. Several were assaulted by baton-wielding special units and a small number were hauled away, apparently at random.
Youths responded by throwing missiles and petrol bombs, striking two of the PSNI’s armoured vehicles which withdrew. The scenes worryingly recalled events in Derry exactly three years ago, when young journalist Lyra McKee was shot in heavy rioting as she stood beside a PSNI vehicle to watch trouble unfold after PSNI raids in the Creggan area of the city.
After being suspended for the past two years due to Covid-19, fears had been high that the PSNI were attempting to suppress the march this year. Saoradh members advertising the parade had been arrested, while republican flute bands taking part were told it was illegal and they would be subject to arrest.
In light of the rumours, the organisers warned in advance of the potential for trouble and said that “responsibility for any conflict will rest with the aggressors in the Crown Forces”.
Despite heavy censorship on social media, several thousand supporters dramatically returned this afternoon to take part in the ‘Unfinished Revolution’ parade organised by the National Republican Commemoration Committee.
A masked colour party dressed in black sweaters and berets marched through the streets before the main parade, carrying the Irish tricolour and the flags of the four provinces, to sporadic applause.
The PSNI this evening said they had arrested six people at the commemoration and had found what they described as “suspected terrorist uniforms”.