By PETER MORRISON and JILL LAWLESS
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) Crowds from Protestant and Catholic communities hurled bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at police and each other overnight in Belfast, as a week of street violence escalated. Police and politicians tried Thursday to calm the volatile situation in Northern Ireland, where Britains exit from the European Union has unsettled an uneasy political balance.
The focus of the violence, some of it committed by youths in their early teens, was a concrete peace wall in west Belfast that separates a British loyalist Protestant neighborhood from an Irish nationalist Catholic area. The two sides clashed across the wall, while nearby a city bus was hijacked and set on fire.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said several hundred people gathered on both sides of a gate in the wall, where crowds … were committing serious criminal offenses, both attacking police and attacking each other.
Northern Ireland has seen sporadic outbreaks of street violence since the 1998 Good Friday peace accord ended the Troubles decades of Catholic-Protestant bloodshed over the status of Northern Ireland in which more than 3,000 people died. But Roberts said Wednesdays mayhem was at a scale we have not seen in recent years.
Nationalists and Loyalists clash with one another at the peace wall on Lanark Way in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The police had to close roads into the nearby Protestant area as crowds from each divide attacked each other. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)