The PSNI have refuted accusations of “heavy handed tactics” during a recent security alert in Creggan.
A police spokesperson said that officers were attacked with petrol bombs, paint bombs, bricks and bottles. One officer was reported to have sustained facial injuries in the incident. Several residents of Creggan contacted the Journal alleging there was “baton charging of innocent onlookers.”
Riot police were called to the scene in the vicinity of St. Mary’s Church, Creggan in the early hours of Thursday, May 24. Residents criticised what they claimed was “heavy handed tactics” by the PSNI and “eagerness” to use their batons. Some residents, all of whom wished to remain anonymous, accused the police of “baton charging” onlookers.
“There was no need for that level of hostility. This was political policing pure and simple,” one claimed.
Another resident added: “There was no trouble, everyone here knew it was a dud device, the children had been kicking it about the place all day. You could clearly see it was a bottle of sand. While there was some stone and paint bombs thrown at police, they were thrown from a different place and group than those the police baton charged.”
Another asked: “Why would ten jeeps full of police in riot gear turn up when there was no riot? They provoked people to be honest. They drove into the crowd, shouted and swore at residents. The entire operation just made no sense.”
A spokesperson for the police stated: “It is very important that police are able to fight crime effectively and our aim is always to protect the community to make Northern Ireland safer.
“Security alerts have the potential to cause serious harm and damage to communities and police will do everything possible to protect communities from these dangers, even when it involves risking their own lives.”
Acting Area Commander, Inspector Alan Hutton said: “Police were endeavouring to keep the public safe during a serious security operation. Police carried out their duties in a proportionate manner with professionalism and respect. It is disappointing that the actions of police have been criticised, at a time when they were working to minimise risk to local residents. Our Neighbourhood Officers are working hard to support the community and would encourage anyone with concerns to contact them either directly or through a community representative to resolve these issues. Anyone who is unhappy with police action should report it it to the Police Ombudsman.”
Sinn Fein councillor for Creggan, Kevin Campbell said: “I want to condemn those who planted the device in order to bring the PSNI into the area for ‘recreational rioting’ purposes. Those that plant hoax devices disrupt the entire community. That said, there is no need for this type of policing. We need to resolve the issue of heavy handed tactics by police. If they want to be accepted in areas such as Creggan, they need to police in a proportionate matter. They are there to protect and serve the community not to attack them. These tactics didn’t work in the past and they won’t work now.” Colr. Campbell, who confirmed he has already raised the issue with the police, added: “The responsibilty for all that transpired on Wednesday night/ Thursday morning however lies with those who planted the device in the first place.”