The remains of a huge bonfire set alight in the Bogside was still burning this morning after a night when a crowd estimated at approximately 2,000 gathered in the district to witness it. And, footpaths and roads in the district are littered with empty drink containers and broken glass.
Last night’s fire was punctuated with a security alert which began at around 12.30am when police say a suspect device-a viable pipe bomb, was thrown in the proximity of the Lecky Road flyover. Residents of Charlotte Street, next to Long Tower church were evacuated and got to return to their homes at around 3.15am.
However, whilst there were some incidents of bottles and at least one petrol bomb being thrown towards the city walls there was no outbreak of widespread disorder in the Bogside.
The bonfire, constructed of wooden pallets and tyres reached in excess of 20 ft high and was situated close to the access route to the flyover-a main arterial route in the city. The pyre was covered in various flags and emblems which included Union flags, Orange Order flags, an Israeli flag, UVF flag, and a poppy wreath. Several Sinn Fein election posters were also burned on the fire-these included images of Martin McGuinness, former hunger striker Raymond McCartney and Martina Anderson and Gerry Adams pictured together on a ‘Remain’ poster from the recent EU referendum. Other election posters included one depicting DUP MLA Gary Middleton and former election candidate John Lindsay who stood for the CISTA party (Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol) in the last Assembly election.
The situation in the Bogside remained relatively quiet until around 9.30pm and whilst the bonfire partially blocked the road, traffic in the area was still passing through relatively unimpeded. But as the night wore on increasing numbers of people began to gather in the district.
A substantial crowd of people could also been seen watching events unfold from the vicinity of the Verbal Arts Centre on the city walls-close to the city’s Fountain Estate.
At 10.20pm a smaller bonfire was ignited in a patch of ground from where the PSNI had removed bonfire material last Thursday-August 11. By this time the crowd in the area had swelled substantially with crowds gathered on both sides of the area, from the site of the main fire and as far back as Free Derry corner.
Shortly afterwards, at around 10.30pm, a van equipped with speakers was used to play music-consisting mainly of republican songs. One song, a version of ‘The Fields of Athenry’, contained the verse: “If you’re going to Drumcree, pitch your tent beneath a tree, you won’t be marching down Garvaghy Road.”
At 11.10pm some masked youths moved forward to light the bonfire. Some scaled the construction and poured petrol over the material before lighting it whilst others used petrol bombs to simultaneously light the fire from the bottom.
After the declaration of the security alert a police helicopter travelled over the area for a period of time and police vehicles located at the top of the flyover shone searchlights into the Bogside at around 1.45am.