Sustained Disorder erupted last night (Wednesday 7 April) in the Lanark Way and West Circular Road areas of West Belfast.
Condemning the violent scenes Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said: “We witnessed intense disorder in a built up area for a sustained period.
“During this time officers came under constant attack. At times there were upwards of 600 people present. Petrol bombs, bottles, masonry, and fireworks were thrown during scenes of violent disorder.
“A bus was hijacked and set on fire. The driver, a key worker in our community, was removed from his bus and violent crowds threw petrol bombs into it, setting it alight. Thankfully the driver escaped without injury. A moving bus on fire surrounded by a large crowd could have led to members of the local community being seriously injured.”
ACC Roberts added, “During the disorder six AEPs were discharged by officers. Eight officers were injured. Two men aged 18 and 28 have also been arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour.
“A press photographer was also assaulted by two masked men. An investigation is underway into his assault and criminal damage to his equipment. During the disorder, two motorists had their vehicles hijacked and burnt out.”
ACC continued: “I know the actions that we saw last night are not representative of the local community in West Belfast.
“Whilst many of those involved in the disorder last night were adults, it is clear there were many young people involved. Young people were being encouraged to commit criminal acts by adults, who stood by clapping and encouraging the violence. There is absolutely no justification for this. Young people need to quickly realise that by engaging in this type of behaviour they are not only risking their safety, they are also risking their futures. Today I am appealing to parents and guardians please speak to your children. To those community, civic and political leaders please exert whatever influence you have to quell this disturbing, unnecessary and unwanted violence.
Assistant Chief Constable Roberts concluded: “I would like to thank the many local community representatives who tirelessly worked with officers to restore calm. I want to assure the community that over the coming days, police will be proactively working to identify all of those involved in this disorder, arresting them and where appropriate bringing them before the courts.
“Officers will continue to patrol all areas in Belfast, tackling not only disorder, but all types of criminality including burglaries, thefts, assaults and domestic abuse.
“We will continue to work with the community, political representatives and other partners to ensure we never have to witness public disorder on this scale again.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident or anyone with any information that will assist the investigation to contact us on the non-emergency number 101. Information can also be passed anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.