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Community office attacked during protest

Police come under fire on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast.

A gang who took part in a flag protest in east Belfast on Tuesday have broken into a community building that provides childcare for autistic children.

Wednesday, 09 January 2013
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(Helicopter footage provided by the PSNI)

Scaffolding, fencing and the fabric structure of the premises owned by East Belfast Community Development Agency were damaged by a breakaway group and used as missiles by rioters.

Police say a crowd of up to 300 demonstrators who gathered on the Beersbridge Road on Tuesday evening moved down Templemore Avenue and onto the Lower Newtownards Road, where they attacked a police line.

Officers were pelted with petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and golf balls during the disorder, which has been captured by PSNI cameras.

As around 150 people walked down Templemore Avenue, individuals broke into the community building, which contains a local advice centre, a childcare facility for children with autism and a local development agency.

Local Alliance MLA Judith Cochrane said: "The people who have been out rioting are destroying their own neighbourhood. The Templemore Avenue School site has the potential to be a great asset to the local community but rioters have sought to cause damage to it.

This attack is unacceptable. They are only harming their own community. I hope that this project will not be delayed by this attack and that not too much damage has been caused.

Judith Cochrane

"It is hoped that this project will help kickstart regeneration in the area and provide a space for start-up businesses and local organisations.

Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum said some people on the city's streets were "intent on engaging in violence".

"They showed no regard for the local community and forcibly entered a premise that is being developed as a multi-purpose community site.

"Police are committed to bringing those who engage in criminal activity before the courts," he added.

Protests followed a Belfast City Council decision in December to restrict the number of days when the Union flag is flown from designated buildings.

Violence has broken out after a number of protests, with fireworks, petrol bombs and bricks thrown at police, injuring 66 officers.

So far, 107 people have been arrested, with 82 charged and 17 released on bail. Seven people have also been reported to the Public Prosecution Service and one adult has been cautioned.