Banned anti-internment parade passes off peacefully in Belfast
AN anti-internment parade banned from Belfast city centre passed off peacefully after its route was blocked by the PSNI.
A massive police operation was put it place after the Parades Commission banned the march from making its way into the city centre on Sunday.
Dozens of PSNI officers in riot gear standing in front of Land Rovers stopped the parade at Divis Street, close to the centre.
Earlier this week organisers said they intended to continue their march until they were "physically stopped".
Organisers wanted to make their way from the Busy Bee in Andersonstown via the Falls Road to Castle Street in the city centre.
From there they had planned to travel along Donegal Place to city hall where a rally was due to be held.
The parade was organised to mark the 45th anniversary of internment when hundreds of nationalists were detained without trial in August 1971.
It was also arranged to highlight `internment by remand', which republicans claim continues to take place.
A PSNI helicopter monitored the parade along the entire route while several Land Rovers with cameras mounted also carried out surveillance.
Anti internment parade passes through west Belfast pic.twitter.com/IM3WC3Jz9f— Connla Young (@ConnlaYoung) August 7, 2016
Four bands and supporters took part in the parade, which was organised by the Anti-Internment League.
Prominent Lurgan republican Colin Duffy also attended the parade.
Before the parade, a minute silence was held in memory of Sean Downes who was killed by a plastic bullet fired by an RUC officer during an anti-internment rally in Andersonstown in August 1984.
The parade was led by people carrying banners calling for an end to internment and supporting Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed who has been on hunger strike since June 15.
He is subject of `administrative detention' after being held without charge by Israeli authorities.
Speeches were made at the point where the parade reached police lines.
Paul Crawford from Cogus, which represents prisoners aligned to Republican Network for Unity, spoke about the case of Tony Taylor, whose early release licence was revoked by former secretary of state Theresa Villiers earlier this year.
Joanne Donnelly from the Justice for the Craigavon Two campaign also addressed the crowd.
The short rally was brought to a close when some of those attending joined in with a musician to sing the Men Behind the Wire - an anti-internment anthem from the 1970s.
The crowd then dispersed and were followed a short time later by the PSNI.
Anti internment parade moves along the Falls Road pic.twitter.com/26uQmlgr6w— Connla Young (@ConnlaYoung) August 7, 2016
AIL spokesman Gerard Fitzpatrick said on Sunday that the parade was a "success".
"We had thousands of people walking down the Falls Road showing their opposition to internment," he said.
"We are disappointed that the quango of the Parades Commission made a determination that this was a contentious parade. This was not a contentious parade.
"The message is clear about smashing internment, and not just here."
After the parade, members of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association made their way to city hall where they held a short protest and handed out leaflets to passers by.
Mr Fitzpatrick this was done to "defy" the Parades Commission and "let them know this is our city hall too and we will engage with the public and highlight the issue".
It is understood a small group of loyalists had gathered at city hall earlier in the day.
PSNI pull out of Divis St after AIL parade pic.twitter.com/9PhUvRNcwr— Connla Young (@ConnlaYoung) August 7, 2016
In a statement, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: "As in previous years, the foremost consideration of my officers today was to keep people safe and ensure that the parade passed off peacefully and within the law, that the rights of all those involved were protected and that the Parade’s Commission determination was upheld."
Violence erupted after police stopped last year's parade in the Oldpark area of north Belfast.
In 2013 there was also serious violence after protesting loyalists clashed with police in Belfast city centre.