70 youths attack police in west Belfast
POLICE vehicles have been damaged and a man attacked during disturbances in separate parts of Belfast.
More than 70 young people gathered in the Stewartstown Road area of west Belfast and attacked police officers who attended the scene at around 10.20pm on Saturday night.
Councillors and community representatives had attempted to disperse the crowd who were drinking alcohol and playing music in a wooded area near the Dairy Farm Centre.
Inspector Keith Hutchinson said: "They then started to throw pieces of masonry at nearby houses and as police attended the disturbance in two landrovers, a crowd of youths surrounded one of the vehicles and attacked it.
"Damage was caused to a second landrover which had its wing mirrors pulled off. Bottles and bricks from a nearby building site were then also thrown at them. The crowd set fire to nearby traffic lights before police restored order to the area."
A 17-year-old male was arrested in the Laurelbank area on suspicion of several offences including riotous behaviour and assaulting police and was last night in custody.
As police tried to make that arrest, they were attacked by a large crowd with one officer suffering cuts and bruising to his face.
In a post on Facebook, Sinn Féin councillor Stephen Magennis wrote: "This is disgraceful behaviour....has been going on nightly since St Patrick's Day and needs brought under control. And with Easter coming we will need to put a focus on this area and the Woodside forest."
Meanwhile, police said that a group of up to 30 youths gathered in the Duncairn Parade area of north Belfast at around 7.20pm on Saturday evening, amidst reports that a man was being attacked by three others.
About an hour later, a bin was set on fire in the nearby Victoria Parade area of North Queen Street. A police vehicle was damaged as officers responded but there were no injuries.
Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín said anti-social behaviour in the New Lodge area had been "ongoing for days" and said residents were "angry" at the response from statutory agencies.
"Local residents are angry that this activity has continued over a couple of days despite the best efforts of youth workers and local community leaders.
"Residents want the statutory bodies to step up to the plate and the PSNI has assured me that police patrols will be stepped up," she said.
Inspector Hutchinson said: "This behaviour is senseless and unacceptable. It achieves nothing and only creates inconvenience, disruption and misery for the local community.
"I would again urge parents within these areas to monitor the activities of their children. Know where they are. Know what they're doing."