PSNI welcomes flag protest tactic change

PSNI welcomes flag protest tactic change

Police have welcomed a decision by loyalist flag protesters to swap roadblocks for white line demonstrations.

Police issued a statement following a meeting between senior police officers and the Ulster People's Forum on Tuesday where they said "frank and constructive" dialogue on protests and parades took place.

"Police were explicit that all protests need to be lawful and peaceful," a PSNI statement said.

They also discussed the human rights framework underpinning policing, breaches of the law and the associated criminal justice strategy that is being implemented.

Police said they welcomed the fact that legal, peaceful protest was being encouraged and officers agreed to meet with the Ulster People's Forum in the future.

The Ulster People's Forum said on Wednesday they will also be holding localised protests outside council officers to coincide with monthly meetings.

Jamie Bryson from the Ulster People's Forum said the group would support anybody who continues to protest in other ways as long as "it's non-violent and non-threatening".

White line protests, where groups demonstrate along the middle of a road and do not obstruct traffic, are legal and do not have to be notified to PSNI or the Parades Commission.

On Thursday police said that obstructing the road is an offence and that anyone who endangers someone else's safety during the pickets is also causing an offence.

"Individuals have the right to peaceful, lawful protest, in line with the Human Rights Act. Police will act appropriately to ensure that there is no unnecessary disruption caused to the public by such protest," a PSNI spokesperson said.

Last week, PSNI said they would be stepping up their operation against those involved in disorder associated with loyalist flag protests, and have drafted in Metropolitan Police members to liaise.

They have also released images of 19 people they want to question as part of their investigations.

There have been over 180 arrests and almost 130 charges in connection with the trouble which broke out following a Belfast City Council vote in December to reduce the number of days the Union flag flies at City Hall.


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