After 9 days of riots, attempted murder and countless illegal road blockades publicly organised and advertised in advance, there have been some 40 people arrested by the PSNI.
One illegal sit-down protest in Ardoyne to oppose a loyalist parade through the nationalist district saw 26 nationalists arrested, charged and convicted in December 2011.
Those are scary numbers for anyone remotely interested in portraying the PSNI as a non-partisan policing service.
As the loyalist law-breaking continues for a tenth day and night, the hearty souls over at the West Belfast PSNI Facebook page have decided to issue a reminder to protesters in case they were unaware of the law:
Some of you may not be aware of the laws regarding protests, so we think that it is important that we update you on this.
Everyone has the right to peacefully protest provided you remain within the law. To remain within the law it is important that you do not block roads or prevent the free flow of vehicle or pedestrian traffic. You should not conceal your identity by covering your face. You must remain peaceful and not use violent or threatening behaviour. Your actions can not amount to intimidating behaviour. The protest should not be conducted in a manner or location that is likely to cause a breach of the peace. If you break the law then you can be summoned to court, prosecuted and receive a criminal record.
Of course, the key phrase there is ‘can be summoned’ as the arrest figures to date indicate a woeful failure or unwillingness on behalf of the PSNI to act in defence of the law and intervene to prevent roads from being blocked, even when the protesters themselves have conceded to having small numbers at the protests where such road blockades took place.
This is important because the PSNI’s reluctance to uphold the law stands in stark contrast with their willingness to arrest and charge nationalists for precisely the same offence – obstructing lawful activity- in Ardoyne.
The inescapable conclusion is that the PSNI have a difficulty with challenging unlawful conduct when the lawbreakers emanate from within unionism.
And that does not augur well for the future….
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