Northern Ireland news

Naomi Long says PSNI response to anti-racism rallies was 'proportionate'

Several thousand attended the rally in support of George Floyd in Belfast city centre earlier this week. Picture by Mal McCann
Rebecca Black, Press Association

Justice minister Naomi Long has described the response by police to anti-racism rallies in Northern Ireland as "proportionate".

Some cases will be reported to the Public Prosecution Service, while a "significant number" of community resolution notices (CRNS) and fines were issued to people attending rallies, police said.

An estimated 500 attended Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Belfast and Derry, sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in the US.

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The PSNI and senior politicians had urged people not to take part in public protests, citing the coronavirus regulations in Northern Ireland which currently ban the gathering of more than six people.

Officers conducted checks on roads and at transport hubs ahead of the protests to remind those taking part of the social distancing rules.

Amnesty International expressed concern at the police response.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director, said the rally organisers went to "great lengths" to ensure social distancing in light of the current public health crisis.

"The PSNI must respect the rights of those peacefully protesting and ensure that the voices of those demanding action on tackling racial injustice are allowed to be heard," he said.

Alliance Leader and Stormont justice minister Naomi Long. Picture by Mal McCann

However, Ms Long described the actions of police as "proportionate" adding they had found themselves in an "awkward situation".

"I would have hoped that the organisers would have found other ways, whether digital or virtual ways, of marking that protest because I think many of us are in solidarity with the cause but could not be in solidarity with breaching the coronavirus regulations and placing other lives at risk," she told the BBC.

"At the end of the day, the guidance and the regulations are there to protect life and we are all required to respect that."

There were also socially distanced expressions of solidarity, with the painting of a new mural dedicated to Mr Floyd in west Belfast, while Stormont was lit up yellow on Saturday evening as an expression of opposition to racism.

Several thousand people hold a rally in support of George Floyd in central Belfast Picture Mal McCann.

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Northern Ireland news