PSNI defend Derry flag protest policing

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The PSNI in Derry have defended the way they have policed flag protests in the city.

A PSNI spokesman says three people have been arrested and seven reported to the Public Prosecution Service since the flag protests began in December.

He says police “understand the frustration of the community.”

“Our priorities are to protect the public, preserve public order, uphold the human rights of all and gather evidence of any wrongdoing with a view to prosecuting anyone who breaks the law,” he says.

“Where the law is broken or a parade/ procession takes place unnotified we gather evidence with a view to identifying offenders. As with all enquiries, a robust police investigation will be conducted and all appropriate evidence thoroughly considered in an effort to bring law breakers before the courts.

“The Chief Constable has called for protestors to take a step back and think about the potential consequences of their actions for the wider public and themselves.”

“We would ask for the support and patience of local representatives and residents as we work to manage the ongoing protests around the Union Flag and we urge all public representatives to work together to bring these protests to a conclusion.”

Yesterday Stormont Justice Committee vice-Chair and Foyle Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney said that it is not good enough that the PSNI continue to allow illegal Unionist protests to disrupt parts of the Waterside at night time.

He said:“Prior to Christmas the Chief Constable Matt Baggott outlined what was legal and what was illegal during these protests.

“There are now stories emerging on daily basis of people in Derry being intimidated at road blocks in the Waterside area by masked men. This is simply not good enough.

“People going to Altnagelvin Hospital, the Airport or just going about their business in the Waterside should not have to do so in the fear of being stopped, harassed and intimidated by masked men.

“If people are acting in an illegal manner they should be arrested and charged and brought before the courts.

“This situation needs to be brought to an end. These are not peaceful protests, they are illegal blockades and the PSNI need to step up to the mark and do their job.”

Read more in tomorrow’s Derry Journal