Police and protesters again clashed with cobblestones, Molotov cocktails and water cannons last night in Belfast. Brexit shakes the fragile balance between communities.
Hundreds of young people and teenagers gathered since early Thursday afternoon in a western district of the city, which is experiencing political and Brexit-related tensions.
Wearing masks and hoods, they catapulted stones, bricks, firecrackers and bottles into the barricades set up by riot control forces with the help of their armored Land Rover vehicles.
Brexit has upset the delicate balance of the province, forcing the introduction of customs controls between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
These controls, aimed at preventing the return of a physical border between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, are carried out in Northern Irish ports.
Despite a grace period to allow companies to adjust, the new deals are cutting off supplies and are seen by unionists as a border between Northern Ireland and Britain and a “betrayal” of London.
Last week, violence first broke out in the city of Londonderry, before spreading to and around a loyalist part of Belfast over Easter weekend.
The Northern Irish authorities’ decision not to prosecute leaders of the Republican Sinn Fein party who had attended the funeral of a former paramilitary leader despite coronavirus restrictions, also increased tension.
Several dozen elderly men and women gathered near the sites of the previous day’s violence on Thursday, preventing rioters from approaching or putting out a nearby fire.
The violence of the last few days has already left more than 50 policemen injured and brings back the specter of three bloody decades of the so-called “troubles”, the confrontations between Republicans, mainly Catholics in favor of reunification with Ireland, and Protestant unionists, who left 3,500 dead.