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Rioting rocks Belfast for fourth night

Rioting rocks Belfast for fourth night
© Getty Images

Violent demonstrations erupted for the fourth night in Northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast on Wednesday amid conflicts on post-Brexit trade rules and tensions between opposing parties in the Protestant-Catholic power-sharing government. 

The Associated Press reported that young protesters set a hijacked bus on fire and launched gasoline bombs at police, with objects also flying across a concrete “peace wall” separating Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods. 

Video shared on social media showed some demonstrators setting gates at the wall on fire and throwing objects across both sides. 

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Other footage appeared to show rioters taking over a bus that had been abandoned by its driver and passengers before throwing gasoline bombs at it. 

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Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts with the Police Service of Northern Ireland said that among hundreds of people gathered Wednesday evening, some crowds “were committing serious criminal offenses, both attacking police and attacking each other,” according to the AP. 

Violence has continued in the area as Britain’s economic departure from the European Union has led to increased tensions in Northern Ireland, with British loyalists wanting to remain part of the United Kingdom and those who identify as Irish seeking to maintain unity with their neighboring EU-member state, the Republic of Ireland. 

Roberts said that following Wednesday’s rioting, a total of about 55 police officers have been injured in this week’s series of clashes. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the violence in a Wednesday Twitter post, writing that he was “deeply concerned,” especially by the attacks on police “who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist.” 

“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality,” he added. 

Johnson is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting Thursday to address the violence in Northern Ireland, according to the AP. 

Violent protests have also erupted in response to authorities’ decision not to prosecute two dozen politicians from the Irish political party Sinn Féin who attended the June funeral of Bobby Storey, a former head of intelligence for the Irish Republican Army, despite breaking coronavirus restrictions. 

Unionist parties in response have demanded the resignation of Northern Ireland’s police chief, arguing that he has lost the public’s trust.