PSNI Defends Handling Of L'Derry Parade

The PSNI has defended its actions in relation to a loyalist flute band which wore Parachute Regiment insignia while marching during an Apprentice Boys parade through the city of L'Derry.

Members of Clydevalley Flute Band from Larne wore the symbol during Saturday's parade, prompting police officers to flank the band and escort it throughout the march in an effort to keep the peace.

A bus carrying the band home to Larne was later stopped by officers.

Loyalists throughout Northern Ireland have been displaying the Parachute Regiment symbol in support of Soldier F- a veteran currently facing prosecution for two murders and four attempted murders on Bloody Sunday in L'Derry in January 1972.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd addressed claims the response had been "heavy handed" during a press conference on Monday, saying the PSNI actions were "proportionate, responsible and constructive".

"Given the context of the place, the symbols and the history I don't think anybody who has looked at that carefully is going to argue that that had the potential to raise tension and where you get raised tensions you have the potential for disorder," he commented.

"As a policing service we have a professional responsibility, and a legitimate purpose, to maintain the peace and keep people safe. These were the objectives of our decision making on Saturday. The event passed off peacefully, people were kept safe, no one was hurt and nobody was unduly inconvenienced by police actions."
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Mr Todd added that people in Northern Ireland are well aware of the sensitive nature of displaying certain symbols in the city,

The PSNI faced a tirade of scrutiny in the wake of the parade, with many condemning their tactics in relation to the flute band.

DUP MP for east L'Derry Gregory Campbell raised a number of questions over police actions, branding the band's escort as an "over the top operation". He said in a statement: "The bus with band members on the way home was stopped and demands made that all band members supply their names and addresses to the Police. I understand this led to two hours of protracted discussions and only ended with the police accepting the names of several band representatives and the bus was then allowed to proceed on its way.

"Given that there did not appear to be a suggestion of an offence being committed it is incredulous that an operation like this took place on the week that Police were perceived to have tamely walked away from a bonfire site in a republican area of North Belfast where there was obvious law breaking in evidence."

East Antrim representatives Sammy Wilson MP, David Hilditch MLA and Gordon Lyons MLA added: "The actions of the PSNI in Londonderry towards the Clyde Valley Flute Band have caused a huge amount of anger and ill will towards the PSNI. The heavy handedness of the police was completely unwarranted and unjustified and there are many questions that the police will have to answer. We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable and will put these questions to him directly."


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