Sir,To stand in the Bogside on the 12th July was to confront confusion on a massive scale.
It was to see residents penned into their own homes, many of them elderly and frightened, as a small group of young people, encouraged by an even smaller group of adults, and watched by an audience of approximately 100 people, lay siege to the Bogside.
If this was political violence it was of a nature I have not seen before. The car of a working man firebombed in Fahan Street because it was there.
A sick and elderly man dragged from his car and tramautised because he had the misfortune to drive into the Bogside. Children as young as seven and eight, and not even from the area, in the middle of this turmoil.
Cars parking along Lecky Road to get a good view of whatever was likely to happen and the blue bag brigade turning up to sup their beer and see the entertainment.
There are a number of questions that need to be asked before we reach the 12th August.
What right do the adults and young people who engaged in this violence think they have to come into the Bogside, indulge their desire for wreckage and burning, terrorise residents and then leave again?
What responsibility do the spectators feel for the actions of the wreckers and burners, who seem to thrive on the presence of an audience?
What responsibility do the PSNI feel, who with their actions in the afternoon of the 12th in the Bogside, and their actions on Westland Street, did nothing to help matters?
What knowledge or responsibility do the parents of the children and young people who made their way to the Bogside on the evening and night of the 12th feel towards the residents of Westland Street, Fahan Street, St Columb’s Wells, Joseph’s Place or Alexander House?
There were a number of residents and community activists on the streets of the Bogside throughout the day trying to defuse tensions and prevent harm being visited on children, young people, residents and property in the area. To a large extent they succeeded.
Where they did not succeed, and indeed where they could not be expected to succeed, was in preventing the drunk, the drugged and the dissidents from inciting trouble they were determined to incite.
To hand petrol and bottles to children at the bottom of Meenan Field was a shameful act. To encourage children and young people to “Get into them” as they stood and watched from the sidelines was no better. To shout “Get a car, get a car!” minutes before the hijacking, destruction and then burning of an elderly man’s vehicle was just as bad.
The events of the 12th July were not “Resistance”, They were recreational violence. The people engaged in violence on the 12th were intent on trouble from 6.00pm, if not before.
They were to be found in the Bogside in the preceding nights when a house was burned on Cable Street, when petrol and paint bombs were thrown at cars and when a young man was doused in petrol and threatened with a gun.
Instead of looking nostalgically back to a troubled time in our history and trying to recreate it for their own entertainment I would ask the rioters and their audience to think about the residents of the Bogside, of Fahan Street, St Columb’s Wells and St Joseph’s Place, of Westland Street and Alexander House, and then hopefully think of something better to do with themselves.
The people who suffered on the 12th July were the people of the Bogside. They should not be made to suffer again this weekend.
(Name & Address not for publication)