Northern Ireland

Hundreds Gather To Protect War Memorials In Belfast

Police in Northern Ireland urged the public to "stay away" from planned events due to remaining coronavirus guidelines.

Several hundred people gathered outside City Hall in Belfast on Saturday to protect war memorials after the targeting of several monuments across the UK. 

The Northern Ireland Cenotaph Protection Group (NICPG) issued a statement saying its aim is to protect war memorials rather than "inflame" tensions amid recent attacks on historical UK statues.

Multiple landmarks have been defaced in London, though most have protested peacefully, following the death of George Floyd in the United States.

Central London's Cenotaph was boarded up ahead of this weekend - veterans and soldiers stepped in to clean graffiti off the monument earlier this week.

In case of similar vandalism in Belfast, the NICPG said: 

“We are not a counter protest, we do not have a political message. 

"For those of us who served we served beside men and women of all cultural backgrounds, and those veterans that have been in combat know, above all else, regardless of what colour you are, we all bleed red.”

It insisted Saturday’s gathering in Northern Ireland was not not meant to "inflame the situation".

Veterans and soldiers helped to clean graffiti off the Cenotaph earlier this week.

Some participants wore British military uniforms, while Union Jack and Ulster flags were draped over the City Hall's railings.

Though many participants wore masks, it was reported UK social distancing guidelines were not being followed.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers attended, and the PSNI posted on Twitter:

“We are aware of the possibility of some pre-arranged gatherings planned for today.

"We would urge anyone considering attending to put public safety first and stay away. 

"The Health Protection Regulations are still in place to prevent the spread of #COVID19.”

In London, police were hit with bottles during confrontations after large crowds gathered - claiming they were there to protect statues from Black Lives Matter protesters.

Cover image: People outside City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland (Picture: PA).