Cars hijacked and set on fire as police targeted in fresh disturbances

Disturbances broke out on the streets in Newtownabbey on Saturday night.

Sunday, 4th April 2021, 8:25 am
Cars burning at the Doagh Road roundabout of Newtownabbey in County Antrim on Saturday night. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Three cars were hijacked and set on fire in the loyalist O’Neill/Doagh Road area on Saturday evening.

A large crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the unrest.

Police said on Saturday evening that they were responding following reports of disorder at the Cloughfern roundabout in the O’Neill’s Road area of Newtownabbey.

Video footage has emerged of cars being burned out and a police van being targeted.

The PSNI has appealed for calm in the area and asked anyone with any influence in the community to try to ensure young people do not get caught up in criminality.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland has called for an end of the violence, saying people destroying their own communities is “not the way to protest or vent”.

It comes after eight people were arrested and 27 police officers injured during riots in Belfast and Londonderry on Friday night.

Fifteen officers were injured in Belfast, while 12 officers were hurt in Derry after being targeted by mainly young people.

Derry City and Strabane Area Commander Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones said police received reports on Friday night of youths gathering in the areas of Nelson Drive and Tullyally in the city.

“On their arrival, they came under sustained attack from a large group of youths and young adults throwing masonry, bottles, petrol bombs and fireworks,” he said.

“As a result 12 officers sustained injuries including head, leg and foot wounds.”

Mr Jones also said a care home was damaged in the Nelson Drive area during the trouble causing “untold fear and distress” to residents.

He said it was “totally unacceptable” that Friday was the fifth successive night of disturbances in the unionist Waterside area of the city.

“It is vital that we all send out a message to those responsible that such behaviour will not be tolerated,” he said.

“The people of Derry/Londonderry deserve to feel safe within their own homes and be able to walk the streets without fear.

“I would ask that anyone who has any influence in communities – whether parents, guardians, community or elected representatives – please, use that influence to ensure young people do not get caught up in criminality and that they are kept safe and away from harm.”

In Belfast, two boys, aged 13 and 14, were among eight people arrested in connection with riots in a loyalist area of Belfast on Friday night.

Police said on Saturday night that seven people including three teenage boys have been charged with riot over the Sandy Row disturbances.

Four adults – three men, aged 25, 21 and 18 years old, and a woman, aged 19 – are due to appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on April 30.

Three teenagers, aged 17, 14 and 13, are due to appear at Belfast Youth Court on the same date.

Police said 15 officers were injured on Friday night after being targeted by a crowd of mainly young people in Sandy Row, throwing stones, fireworks, flares, manhole covers and petrol bombs.

Belfast District Commander, Chief Superintendent Simon Walls, said “a small local protest quickly developed into an attack on police officers” and that at points there were up to 300 people of all ages on the streets.

He called for calm, urging anyone with influence in the loyalist community to dissuade young people from causing violence and harm.

He said: “I’m not going to enter into dialogue about political commentary.

“What I would ask is that people with influence, people in local communities, would dissuade young people, or anyone else, intent on causing violence or intent on harming police officers.”

He described it as a “real tragedy” that children as young as 13 and 14 were among those arrested.

“I think it’s a tragedy that any child in Northern Ireland is sitting in a custody suite this morning and facing criminal investigation, possibility of being charged and possibility of facing a criminal conviction,” he said.

“It shouldn’t happen. And that’s why I’m very keen that people with influence try to ask anyone intent on violence to please step back. It’s not the way to resolve tensions or arguments.”