On Trial for Opposing Sectarianism
On Tuesday 14th January 2014, 19 Ardoyne Residents and Supporters will go on trial for "Illegally Protesting" against a sectarian Apprentice Boys march through Ardoyne in December 2012.
For this sectarian parade, GARC did not file for a protest with the Parades Commission for a number of reasons. However, as is the case with other marches with no protest filed, GARC members, other residents and supporters were present on the Ardoyne Road. This was to monitor and observe the Apprentice Boys for any breaches in the Parades Commission determination, as well as to monitor and note the militarisation of the area that takes place for all sectarian marches through Ardoyne. Others were present on the road as they went about their everyday business or to make their way to the City Centre on a Saturday morning via public transport.
Despite being on an open and unrestricted public footpath, at a functioning bus stop or outside shops open for business as usual, 19 people are now on trial for "Illegally protesting". This in spite of the fact that prior to, during or after the Apprentice Boys march none of those charged;
- Held, displayed or erected any banners
- Held or displayed any banners or clothing opposing the march
- Made any noise such as whistle, jeers or other comments towards the march
- Made any hand gestures to marchers
- Made any attempt to access the road
- Made any attempt to impede or disrupt the march.
Effectively the PSNI and PPS are placing Ardoyne Residents under curfew by using the threat of scurrilous charges to make people fearful of leaving their homes during sectarian marches through their area. They will fail.
The people of Ardoyne are quite rightly angry as they contrast this with the treatment of armed and masked loyalists who have been involved in a sectarian hate siege of Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales since July 2013. This has involved illegal parades, illegal camps, illegal banners, paramilitary displays, detrimental impact on local businesses and ongoing physical/verbal attacks on local residents. Little, if any, arrests have been made in relation to any of these activities, for fear of upsetting the UVF. Most charges that have been brought have either been quietly dropped or resulted in acquittal.
This attack on the human right of Ardoyne Residents to freedom of movement is yet another indicator of the corrupt nature of policing and justice in the Six Counties. In addition, the silence of our elected representatives (some of whom claim to be the successors to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement) is not only a disgrace but also an acknowledgement of their continued support for the ongoing persecution of Ardoyne residents.
GARC call on the people of Ardoyne to support the 19 defendants facing these farcical charges, as well as all those who say they support human rights in 2014 Ireland. This is attempted criminalisation of victims of sectarian harassment and intimidation by the PSNI and PPS, on behalf of Stormont and the British Government and should be opposed by all those with concern for human rights and civil liberties.