Protestors clash at Belfast Gaza rally

Published Saturday, 19 July 2014
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Rival protestors have clashed during a pro-Palestinian rally at Belfast City Hall on Saturday.

The minor trouble erupted as the rally, organised by the Irish Congress of Trades Union in protest at Israel's military action and economic sanctions against Gaza, got underway at Belfast City Hall.

Some of those involved in an earlier loyalist Union flag protest had remained in the area and waved an Israeli flag.

Police in riot gear were brought in to separate the rival groups and order was quickly restored.

A PSNI spokesman said minor scuffles broke out, however no arrests were made.

Both sides have blamed each other for the disorder.

This was about Gaza, this was not about Northern Ireland.

Brian Campfield

Brian Campfield from the ICTU said: "We consciously called the rally for a time after the normal flag protest would be finished.

"Clearly when different groups get in the vicinity of each other tensions will rise, but I think we were able to ensure it was more or less peaceful and the focus has been on Gaza.

"Everyone has the right to protest and there is no reason why people can't protest side-by-side, but they have got to respect each other without those sort of exchanges breaking out.

"But we did manage to keep them to a minimum."

He added: "We are aware the issue can be divisive, but there is no reason why it should be.

"This is a humanitarian issue about the people of Gaza and the political situation that needs resolved.

"It doesn't have any resonance in the Northern Ireland context."

Mr Campfield said those involved in clashes were not members of his organisation or any other trade union.

Saturday's rally was part of a UK and Ireland-wide demonstration against violence in the Middle East.

A rally, in support of the Palestinian people, was also held in Londonderry on the city's Peace Bridge.

It's the first time a mass protest has been held on the landmark.

Ahead of the Derry rally, author and journalist Eamonn McCann addressed the assembled crowd and appealed for the demonstration to be peaceful.

He said: "We are here positively to support the Palestinian people and the people of Gaza.

"This is one of literally hundreds of demonstrations around the world.

"We are here to let the beleaguered people of Gaza know that they are not alone."

All armed actions, including attacks from Gaza must stop.

Gerry Adams

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has called for the Irish government to expel the Israeli ambassador.

He said: "The time has long past for merely expressing concern to a government that is clearly oblivious to the outrage of the international community at their actions in Gaza.

"Irish citizens have been upset and angered at the ongoing killing of men, women and children in Gaza."

He added: "The decision by the Israeli Government, in the face of international anger, to escalate its military offensive by launching a ground offensive requires a firm and resolute response by the Irish Government, which must now expel the Israeli Ambassador.

"The Irish Government should also push for the immediate suspension of the EU's preferential trade agreements with Israel."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Ryan in An Dun wrote (190 days ago):
@ MM in coleraine. I'm sorry that you find a rally to bring attention of the worlds media to the plight of the Palestinian people offensive. But I'm no historian or maybe I was absent that day in history class when it talked about the Israeli government helping the Williamite forces at the battle of the boyne. Israeli flags flown with union flags, UVF flags, UFF flags, KKK flags among others all marching season? What's next MM? The swastika flown in areas where Polish live? Your a joke like your comment! Wise up and read your next comment before posting it.
Jim in Belfast wrote (192 days ago):
Trade Unions should keep out of other peoples politics and do what they are supposed to do, Look after the interests and working conditions of workers. There was hipocracy on both sides here. The 'fleg' Protesters are flogging a dead horse. The Pro Gaza protesters are not being objective in their objections to the conflict. Are they also condemning Hamas? what about protest about Islamic Terrorism and fascism? I don't take sides in that conflict, neither should they. Its nothing to do with us.
MM in Coleraine wrote (193 days ago):
Gaza is an area run by a terrorist organisation whose aim is the eradication of the state of Israel. They ceaselessly endeavour towards this aim by launching rockets across in to Israel. It is a shame that people are caught in the cross fire but the fault lies with Hamas and not Israel. Israel defends itself as it should. People who wave the Palestinian flag mindlessly thinking they are standing for some peaceful utopia are blind to the fact that they are implicitly supporting the bigoted and extremist Hamas government in Gaza.
me in tyrone wrote (194 days ago):
Harry Sinclair in Belfast - be brave Harry, and name your chain of shops - so that us who support Israels right to defend itself and its citizens can boycott you!
jane in craigvon wrote (194 days ago):
hamas is like the ira they hide behind women and children
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