Sender: Updates on Ireland from Derry's Pat Finucane Centre <PFCNEWS@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
Ireland News Update Sunday 14th December 1997
***** Apprentice Boys March Sparks Riot in Derry ***** Derry is clearing up after some 14 hours of sporadic rioting following the RUC decision to completely seal off the city centre on the second busiest Saturday in the year in order to allow a parade of the Apprentice Boys, one of the Loyal Orders (for more info on the Loyal Orders see the PFC web site.)
On Saturday morning the people of Derry awoke to find a massive security operation in progress in the city centre which effectively stopped both Christmas shopping and a planned counter demonstration by Bogside Residents against the Apprentice Boys.
Just before 12am the RUC batoned shoppers and local people attempting to leave the Richmond shopping centre onto Ferryquay St. Five RUC doghandlers set their dogs on passersby and several people were injured. Hundreds of shoppers who were locked into the complex eventually forced open the shutters of another entrance onto Shipquay St. Trouble also flared at the nearby Foyleside shopping centre which then closed.
These incidents set the tone for the day. Despite this a number of proesters managed obtain access to the roof of the Richmond shopping centre overlooking the route of the parade. They remained there for several hours with a large Disband the RUC banner.
As the parade passed it became obvious that stewards were having difficulty containing loyalist bandsmen. In one incident Billy Moore, a prominent member of the Apprentice Boys, was assaulted by bandsmen when he requested that they not play music as they passed through the Diamond. This led to a short but vicious melee between bandsmen, stewards and the RUC. In the course of this several press people were atttacked by bandsmen.
Meanwhile rioting erupted in Shipquay St in mid afternoon and petrol bombs were thrown at RUC lines. Soon after hijacking of vehicles began in Shipquay St, Guildhall Square, Customhouse St, Strand Rd and at the corner of Foyle St.
By this stage all shops had closed and thousands of people were milling about the city centre. An attempt to set fire to the Northern Bank forced the RUC to move further into the city centre and rioting erupted in Waterloo Sq and William St.
At approximately 5 pm a large convoy of Saxon Armoured cars carrying British soldiers moved up the Strand Rd past a burning lorry forcing rioters into the Bogside. British troops were again on the streets of Derry following a lull of several months.
Later in the evening serious rioting again started at the entrance to the Bogside. Littlewoods store was fire damaged. The trouble continued until 4am. According to media reports (which should be taken with extreme caution since these reflect RUC statements) some 1000 petrol bombs were thrown and 169 plastic bullets were fired.
A number of RUC men were said to have been injured and an 11 eleven year old boy has been transferred to hospital in Belfast having been hit by a stone. His condition is said to be stable. It is not known how many others were injured since most people do not attend the local hospital following such incidents for fear of arrest.
The political reaction has been predictable with blame apportioned to just about everyone except Santa Claus.There can be no doubt that the RUC decision to completely seal off the city centre denying access to workers, shoppers and local residents was both provocative and possibly illegal. The clean- up operation is under way today (Sunday)and it is expected that damage will run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
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