23 January 2006

Police defend presence at Bloody Sunday march

The Herald

ALISON CHIESA
January 23 2006

Organisers of a Bloody Sunday march, which saw 11 people arrested, have criticised police for allegedly aggravating the situation.
Cairde na hEirann (Friends of Ireland) said the decision to circle marchers instead of focusing on the 400 protesters who tried to disrupt the parade was the "wrong approach".
Police rejected the claim, insisting that their large presence was necessary to prevent a more serious disturbance.
Protesters tried to charge the Irish Republican parade as it made its way through Glasgow city centre on Saturday. Police estimate that about 1000 people took part in Saturday's commemoration, but organisers said the number was more than 3000.
Jim Slaven, spokesman for Cairde na hEirann, said: "We think the police hyped up the situation by releasing statements to the media all week and deciding, on Saturday, to ring the legal marchers when the focus should instead have been on the illegal demonstrators. It was the wrong approach."
He added: "From our perceptive, all the people participating did so with dignity, respect and took part peacefully."
But, according to police, it was only their heavy presence which prevented the clash becoming more violent.
Kevin Smith, an assistant chief constable, said there had been racist and sectarian abuse and the arrests had been made for breach of the peace, assault and knife possession.
Glasgow City Council last year agreed new guidelines with police to ban sectarian marches if they have been the focus of public disorder.

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