THERE was a public fightback against protesters last night as a campaign to bring people into pubs and restaurants across Belfast took hold.
It was Operation Standstill versus Operation Sit-in with people staying in the city to eat or drink until the flag protesters dispersed.
It was Belfast punters' way of hitting back against the planned protests, encouraging people to sit in a bar or restaurant instead of getting caught up in the traffic disorder.
News of the alternative 'operation' spread quickly across social networks yesterday with the campaign trending for several hours on Twitter.
People who used the hashtag #OperationSitin revealed how they would be "standing up to the standstill" telling others what bars or restaurants they would be visiting.
Businesses across the city also used the campaign as a way of tempting customers into their premises.
Hill Street Brasserie was among the restaurants to promote special offers for customers who wanted to take part in Operation Sit-in.
A spokesman for the restaurant said they were extending their early-bird deal as well as offering a special priced starter and wine deal for £20.
"While we haven't got lots of bookings, we're hoping people will just pop in," he said.
The owners of the Mourne Seafood Bar and Home were also hoping Belfast workers remained in the city and supported local pubs and restaurants.
A spokesman said while some reservations had been cancelled, they hoped customers would visit their businesses to avoid being caught up in the protests
Mollys Yard was another restaurant that extended their pre/post theatre menu to 7pm for customers offering them two courses for £15.50.
Among the Belfast bars trying to encourage customers in was the Limelight, which had a DJ and drinks promotions.
John Allen was among those who took part in Operation Sit-in.
"I didn't want to get caught up in the protests on my way home, so me and a few friends will be going for a few drinks after work," he said.
"What's the point in being stuck in traffic while all the protests go on and plus it's a good way of supporting local businesses."
Thousands of tweets from other people revealed their support for the campaign.
One man said: "Belfast's #operationsitin is trending. Sit in a local bar/restaurant from 5pm and avoid protest related disruption."
Another said: "Don't get caught in the protests, help local businesses".
One woman tweeted: "People of Belfast, support your local bar or restaurant from 5pm onwards as part of #operationsitin - beat the bullies blocking the streets".
Another said: "Ignore Operation: Standstill. Go with #operationsitin Support your local/favourite pubs/restaurants!! Stay in the bar til 8! Go out after 8." ■ FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Belfast's Mourne Seafood bar at 7.30pm yesterday as customers visited the restaurant despite Operation Standstill ' ■ DESERTED: Belfast city centre at 4pm yesterday
PICTURE: Mal McCann