Violent Policing

Armoured cars and tanks and guns
Came to take away our sons
But every man must stand behind
The men behind the baton

A few weeks back Belfast was the scene of serious disturbances as loyalist mobs tried to halt a march against injustice. It has long been a loyalist thing to defend injustice and hit out at those demanding an end to it. Loyalist violence was inflicted on police lines.

In response to loyalist violence, the PSNI responded with violence of its own. Police violence took the form of firing plastic bullets into crowds.

Has any elected nationalist politician in any manner, other than for the optics if even that much, raised objections to this police violence or have they just been happy to acquiesce in it given that it was the 'other lot' getting it?

Nationalists know only too well from bitter experience just how murderous plastic bullets are. Martina Anderson in 2009 described them as ‘deadly and indiscriminate weapons.’ Five years earlier Catriona Ruana while Sinn Fein human rights spokesperson had a go at her party’s main rival for the nationalist vote:

However the SDLP on this issue like the issue of plastic bullets seem to be blind to the reality that it was their Policing Board members who placed these lethal devices into the hands of the PSNI many of whom are human rights abusers who graduated from the ranks of the RUC.

The patrons of the Felons Club have been loud in their condemnation of tunes they consider provocative but seemingly mute in the face of plastic bullets being fired against loyalist protestors. Those lethal devices are no less murderous when used against the children from loyalist communities than they are when used against children from nationalist communities.

Given the past history of these murderous projectiles, the likelihood is that a loyalist protestor or child in the vicinity of a protest will be killed. The irony is that the people most likely to be opposed to the police use of violence against the loyalists are those on the anti internment march.  They know such weapons were frequently used with murderous wrath against opponents of internment. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have said too much either. Meanwhile, the ex-internees of the Felons will go back to drinking pints raised to the peelers as they carry on standing behind the men behind the baton.

 Matt Baggott in a bid to suppress criticism of his force’s violence made the following strange comment:

The only voices we should hear now are those unequivocally condemning the violence and supporting fully the actions of the police and the rule of law and I don't want to hear any excuses for the disgraceful scenes that took place last night, because quite frankly there aren't any.

How are people supposed to support the police and at the same time be opposed to the "disgraceful scenes" of killer plastic bullets being fired into crowds? Baggott might like to have it both ways in his one eyed Nelsonian perspective on violence. In a statement that displayed huge contempt for any democratic process, he expressed ‘little sympathy’ for a democratically elected representative who claims he was assaulted by a member of the PSNI and told to ‘fuck off back to the slums.’  Michael Copeland, a MLA with the Ulster Unionist Party, was with his wife and daughter when the alleged assault took place. In Baggot’s view it seems that neither politicians nor the media should observe and monitor events but just let the police get on with firing plastic bullets at whoever they like. This is a disgraceful comment for any chief constable to make. Had Michael Campbell been hit with a stick by a rioter, would the same logic apply because the chief constable has little sympathy for anybody other than cops near the scene of a riot? Or is it only targets of police violence he has little sympathy for?

If Michael Copeland’s allegation is correct, and there is no reason to believe it isn’t, then the thug that attacked him at the very least should be booted out on her hoop. It will do little to keep people safe from plastic bullets, but it will remove from the scene one of the more exuberant practitioners of police violence. Not a panacea but no bad thing all the same. 


  1. Good post. I couldn't help notice from the footage that some sections of the anti internment were delighted the psni hemmed in the loyalists. Egged on by knowing they got one over the other side marching past the bottom of the shankill. Such is the nature of reactionary sectarian politics.

  2. The lack of outcry is because no one believes anything the DUP or Official Unionists say. Their constant whining that the loyalist riots are everyone's fault but the responsibilty alone of the mason wielding, bottle throwing and hate filled yobs has alienated any Irish Republican sentiment.
    The difference between the RUC/PSNI firing plastic bullets at Republican crowds and using baton rounds on loyalist rioters is that PSNI/RUC have taken deliberate aim at the heads of Republicans.
    Not only was there scant opposition from Nationalists and Republicans, even the loyalists barely complained about the use of baton rounds on a most vicious mob who had murder in their minds that day.
    RUC officers to my knowledge have never killed any loyalist rioters with baton rounds. The PSNI know only too well that to do so would mean they would be knocking en masse on the doors of Connolly House in the middle of the night seeking asylum.
    If you feel the need to bash the peelers, then you could point out the inconsistencies to the softly softly approach to dealing with loyalist rioters, paramilitary flags and insignia, and the quick clean up of the area after finding caches of loyalist weapons, to their seemingly gleeful assaults on Republican protesters, prompt removal of Irish flags and art, and the evacuation for days of Republican areas during recovery of abandoned weapons.
    Also bear in mind that internment does as always seem a very selective process in railroading Republicans into jail. And loyalists nor Unionists seem to care much about that ongoing injustice.
    Yes, the individual cop who hurt the feelings of the poor wee Unionist with her insensitive remark should be scolded, but forgive me if I am not available for the white line pickets.

  3. Colman,

    Keith White I think was the name of a loyalist protestor killed by a plastic bullet around the 1980s.

  4. Ah, ONE. Sorry Mackers, I stand corrected.

  5. I have to be honest on this one.

    They deserved everything they got.

    They now know what their own British police force is capable of.

    They attempted to stop a legitimate Republican Parade against Internment.

    The days of Unionist/loyalist domination is over.

    Now it is alleged that UDA are on the fund raising capaign.

    Men due in Ballymena court accused of loyalist fundraising

  6. There is certainly a very contradictive voicing of opinions within the loyalist community in relation to the issue of plastic bullets and of course the PSNI / RUC issue, that loyalist have now turned into a romantic memory of the old days of RUC policing. However these opinions are facetious and my memory of the RUC is at odds to the loyalist keyboard squads opinion. On Facebook, I often read of loyalist cries to bring back the RUC as they were the " guys to defend us". Regardless of the fact that loyalists hated the RUC during their reign. RUC officers were targets for loyalist groupings and many were forced out of loyalist areas. I have witnessed around 5 officers forced out from where I grew up. Even British military members were warned not to live in loyalist areas. I have spoke to several former UDR members whom had been under just as much threat. One local RAF member had bullet proof windows and personal weapon and was never able to tell the loyalists he was in the RAF. These people are not loyal to Britain. I remember the long nights of the Drumcree riots in which loyalist rioters had opened fire on British soldiers and RUC. The night silence was broken with shouts of threats towards the RUC. "I hope your kids sleep well tonight", "We know where you live" so forth. Many loyalists whose homes were raided were indeed beating in the back of the land rover. Many RUC officers fired their plastic rounds of walls to make sure they would just anybody standing around. As a senseless teenager, we watched the riots and we did see the plastic bullets hit pensioner women and one lad was shot in the chest and stopped breathing. This is only the tip of the iceberg and for these flag protesters to claim that they miss the RUC and that they showed them any respect is fairy tales. I believe the PSNI is the same old British police force. I do however having spoke with many Republicans, having watched many videos of evidence of RUC brutality towards Republicans, know that loyalists have got the easy stick from this. Their cries of police brutality is absurd. Loyalists are attacking and have even tried to murder PSNI officers just as they did to the RUC. Truth is, this is nothing to do with a flag, a police force or their " culture " being chipped away, it is merely the fact that they hate Catholics, hate sharing any power and are thankfully not able to treat others as second class subjects anymore. This talk of British way of life is a joke. I as a Celtic supporter and as a person whom identifies myself as Irish, can not walk down any loyalist area wearing a celtic item nor mention that my wife is a Catholic so forth. I would be attacked. How ever, in England, I can do such things with no fear of attack and certainly live within mixed communities. So where is this British way of life we keep hearing about from them? Orange control is all they want.

  7. Colman,

    at some point we all stand corrected on something!

  8. AM-

    Plastic bullets are wrong and should not be fired at any human being-The water Cannon has not killed anyone-[yet] just does not look right but it is the lesser of two evil's-cant understand why the
    PSNI would just use the water cannon by itself unless they just like shooting projectiles at a person-Plastic bullets could be fired at Republicans shortly or when ever-

    Enjoyed Maitiu Connels comment-hope he keeps at it-

  9. Michaelhenry,

    well said. Human rights are not only for nationalist kids

  10. I agree the use of plastic bullets should be banned. Firing them at loyalist is no more acceptable than firing them at nationalists. They are dangerous implements that can cause serious injury and death.
    That there is a sectarian aspect to the conflict here is undeniable. The roots of this in our own case, can be traced back to the policy of plantation and dispossession. Throughout history the sectarian card has been used by our rulers, both domestic and foreign, to cause division and disunity. The working class has often danced to the devils tune to its own detriment. Our com mon interests are obscured by the green and the orange dichotomy.

    However, in the real world people take sides, rightly or wrongly. What happened on the 9th of August was the prevention of a legal march, courtesy of the Padrade's Commission, by sectarian mobs. Loyalists mobilised to stop the procession by hook or by crook, and that is exactly what happened.

    The march was halted under the bridge in North Queens Street by a wall of police landroves. Hundreds of loyalists had amassed at the bottom of North Street and Royal Avenue; a small crowd had gathered on Peter's Hill at the foot of the Shankill Road. When the march breeched the police lines it was met with a tirade of sectarian abuse from the assembled loyalists. Stones and catapults were used and some marchers were injured. At the same time, Carrick Hill came under attack and people raced to its defence. All through this the stewards fought hard to maintain order and discipline.

    Finally, when the loyalists protesters were pushed back by the police, the march crossed the interface behind a solid line of yellow bibs. Unquestionably, there was a lot of jeering and shouting of a sectarian nature from both sides. When the march got to Divis Flats it reformed and continued on its way.

    In such a incendiary atmosphere raw emotions are to the fore. As with any contest there is pleasure to be had from seeing one's adversaries recieve a bloody nose. However, the aggressors in this situation were the loyalist protestors.

    I am not attempting to justify bigotry and sectarianism on my own side, but the politics of the street is devoid of pleasantries and nicities.

  11. Alec,

    your main point is not lost. Ban the things. The rest is is a sober assessment of facts on the ground.

  12. I fucking hate typos. BAN TYPOS!

  13. Alec,

    a spell check on the word document is the only way. You can't proofread your own stuff as you read it from your mind's eye and not the page. Nobody likes them.

    I am amazed I even got my last one right given the medicinal bourbon that had been used!

  14. Are the plastic batton rounds the same today as they were in the 80s? I see them being fired on the news today and the 'bang' from the gun is almost like a BB-Gun. A wee 'pop' almost inaudible.

    Just wondering.

    Must say on the British way of life I totally agree with Connel. So much in his post that was smack on the money.

  15. Larry-

    " Are the plastic baton rounds the same today "

    No the police say that todays are a more safer weapon-[had to laugh when I heard that one]but they are still dangerous wee fcuks in trained hands never mind in the hands of the PSNI-

    The brit army and RUC used to hammer nails into the head of a baton round and fire them willy-nilly at anyone in front of them-they thought they would get away with shooting people on the streets-and they were right-