Officers ‘sick of being punchbags’ says PFNI
The chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, Mark Lindsay, says officers are sick of being a ‘punchbag’ for the failures of society to resolve its issues.
Mr Lindsay roundly condemned rioters who attacked officers as they assisted contractors to remove wood from a bonfire in the Distillery Street area of west Belfast on Saturday (August 8). Twenty-nine Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers were injured in clashes.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said it was a “disgraceful attack on officers that were simply doing their job”.
“Following the removal of bonfire material from Distillery Street yesterday, we came under sustained and violent attack,” said Mr McEwan. “Within this heavy masonry and heavy objects including a vehicle brake disc were used and 29 of our officers have sustained injuries.
“Three required hospital treatment and several others received medical treatment for a range of injuries including concussion and head, neck and back injuries. All officers have now been discharged from hospital.
“This disgraceful attack on officers that were simply doing their job and serving the community cannot be tolerated.”
Mr Lindsay said: “Once again, police officers have been drawn into the middle of a row over what should or shouldn’t take place. They are sick of being a punchbag for a society that has failed to tackle contentious issues.
“The attacks were pre-meditated. Petrol bombs and chunks of masonry don’t materialise out of thin air. These confrontations were planned. Those behind this reckless and irresponsible action had a very clear aim of making officers bear the brunt of their hate.
“What happened posed real risks to the lives of officers. Petrol bombing is a clear attempt to murder or maim officers who were there to uphold the law.
“My thoughts are with the injured officers and their colleagues who once again demonstrated great professionalism and courage in confronting mindless rioters who achieve nothing but misery and distress for residents in affected areas.”
Mr McEwan added: “Our communities have made it very clear that they do not support and do not want internment bonfires in their areas.
“To address community concerns we have been working closely with a range of partners who have a role in community safety over recent weeks, including the Department for Justice, Department for Infrastructure, Department for Communities as well as partners in housing, education and health.
“Our collective aim is to support local communities and ensure that young people are kept safe and out of harm’s way. A key part of this approach has been to support and protect contractors to remove bonfire material that we have seen gathering up around various sites across Belfast and elsewhere on numerous occasions over the last couple of weeks.
“These operations were largely successful with little or no disturbance.
“I would like to thank community representatives and our partners for their ongoing support and we will continue to serve our communities and make progress on these issues.”