Petrol bombs fired at NI police
Police officers came under attack from petrol bombs and other missiles tonight during disorder in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey, just north of Belfast.
PSNI officers were pelted with petrol bombs, fireworks and other items in the outbreak of trouble at the O’Neill Road roundabout. A bus was also set on fire.
Police deployed water cannon in a bid to restore calm.
The pickets in Newtownabbey were among numerous flag demonstrations across Northern Ireland in co-ordinated action dubbed Operation Standstill by organisers.
Many roads were blocked off between 6pm and 8pm as loyalist protesters again took to the streets to voice their opposition to Belfast City Council’s decision to limit the number of days the Union flag flies at City Hall.
Rugby fans travelling to Ravenhill in east Belfast for Ulster’s crunch Heineken Cup game against Glasgow faced major disruption due to the pickets.
The city centre was not as empty as might have been expected after an online campaign urged people to defy the protests and stage an Operation Sit-in in cafes, pubs and restaurants to give businesses hit by the six-week campaign of street action a much-needed boost to trade.
In Carrickfergus, police fired one baton round as serious disorder broke out following a protest.
A large crowd of rioters hurled bricks, bottles and fireworks at officers in the West Street area of the Co Antrim town.
A series of roads in Belfast were closed tonight due to the latest protests. Routes in Bangor and Newtownards were also blocked by pickets.
The loyalist protests were organised through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites in recent days.
There had been reports of more than 40 protests planned for this evening.
Moderators of the Facebook and Twitter pages set up to co-ordinate the events have urged protesters to be peaceful.
Additional reporting: PA