Two released after flag violence

Loyalist protesters carrying Union flags outside City Hall in Belfast

Loyalist protesters carrying Union flags outside City Hall in Belfast

First published in National News © by

Two men aged 17 and 22, who were arrested in connection with violence at a flag protest in Belfast, have been released on conditional bail.

An 18-year-old man has been reported to the Public Prosecution Service, said a spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Trouble flared in the city centre and parts of east Belfast after a controversial vote on the flying of the Union Flag.

Earlier the police officer leading the operation admitted officers had no intelligence to suggest there would be violence.

Rioting loyalists injured 15 PSNI members, two council security guards and a press photographer when they tried to smash their way into Belfast City Hall after a controversial vote on the Union Flag.

Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum said: "A diverse crowd of up to 1,500 at the peak of the protest consisting of men, women, young people, mothers with children in buggies and wheelchair users gathered at the back of City Hall.

"Police had no definitive intelligence to suggest that there would be any violence and given the diversity of the people protesting, the operation had to be managed very carefully."

On Tuesday morning the Union Flag was removed from City Hall for the first time in more than a century. The move brings the building into line with Stormont's Parliament Buildings where it is only flown on designated days.

Police were pelted with missiles including fireworks, bricks, bottles and stones. A number of protesters also brought bolt cutters to break a lock on the iron gates of City Hall and at one point a masked mob tried to kick down the back door of the building.

Politicians and community workers across Belfast have claimed the violence was orchestrated through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Policing Board chairman Brian Rea has raised questions about the preparedness of the PSNI ahead of the protest.

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