Published Thursday, 30 January 2014
A bin is alight amid a police presence after a protest at the Skainos Centre. (© Samuel Severn)
It is believed up to 100 people gathered outside the Skainos Centre the Newtownards Road, ahead of a reconciliation event named 'Listening to your Enemies' on Thursday evening.
Taking part were Pat Magee, who was convicted of the 1984 IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, and Jo Berry, whose father Sir Anthony Berry was one of five people killed in the blast targeting the Tory Party conference.
A number of riot police were called in to keep the situation under control.
Police said a number of stones and fireworks were thrown at around 7.10pm.
Further missiles were thrown between 8pm and 8.40pm and police lines came under fire.
"Four police officers received minor injuries that were treated at the scene while two police vehicles had their windows broken," a spokesperson stated.
"The event has now ended and attendees have dispersed safely. A police enquiry has been initiated into this disorder."
Mr Magee and Ms Berry left the Skainos Centre in a police landrover when the event ended.
It is important that everybody respects the rights of those who wish to take part in reconciliation events, and that they are allowed to do so without such negative scenes as we have seen tonight.
Naomi Long, Alliance
Alliance East Belfast MP Naomi Long said there “can be no justification for the violence” that occurred and appealed for calm.
“The event at the Skainos Centre is part of a dialogue that should be allowed to take place,” she commented.
“It is deeply disappointing that this trouble has occurred at an event which is aimed at breaking down the barriers in our society.
“If anybody has any information about this violence or about the graffiti on the centre last night, then I would urge them to contact the police.”
The previous night sectarian graffiti had been daubed on the building.
Two men painted the words 'No IRA bombers' and sectarian slogans in black across the windows of the centre.
The graffiti was quickly removed from the building early on Thursday morning and the organisers pledged to go ahead with the talk.
Police said they are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
A spokesperson said: "It was reported that shortly after midnight two males painted sectarian graffiti on windows of the premises. The men made off in the direction of Derwent Street.
"Police are investigating this incident as a hate crime and would ask anyone who may have witnessed this incident or who has any information to contact them on 0845 600 8000."
Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir also condemned the attack.
"We're always distressed and depressed when a small minority engage in sectarian or racists attacks," he said.
"But, the reality is that the vast majority of the people of Belfast believe in tolerance, believe in live and let live, and want no part in these attacks."
Methodist minister Gary Mason, of the East Belfast Mission, said: "I totally condemn it. It was totally wrong to do this. This project, the East Belfast Mission/Skainos project, is serving the poor, the marginalised, the disenfranchised.
"And if that's all these people have to offer society, I think they have to take a long hard look at their actions."
© UTV News