22/03/2006

South Belfast residents protest over Eastern Europeans

Around 30 south Belfast residents have staged a protest against Eastern Europeans living in the area.

It is understood that the protesters took to the streets because of allegations that the Eastern Europeans had been involved in anti-social behaviour.

Last night's protest followed an attack on three homes in the area in which a 51-year-old Polish man who was living in the area suffered injuries to his arm after being beaten by a gang of up to seven men who were wielding baseball bats.

Following the attacks, police confirmed that they believed the attacks to have been racially motivated.

Yesterday was the International Day Against Racism, and the Anti-Racism Network said that the incident gave racists the go ahead to carry out further attacks.

However, people attending last night's protest on the Donegall Road, claim that there was no racial incentive behind the demonstration.

Speaking after yesterday's attack, Detective Ken Eckles, Operations Manager for south Belfast District Command Unit today said: "We announced our new policy to tackle hate incidents and we are very clear about our role and commitment.

"We will not tolerate crimes of this nature but we need the help and support of the local community.

"They must also come forward and demonstrate that they will not allow this to happen. We must work together to make south Belfast a multi-cultural society and a safer place in which to live."

Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey also hit out at the attack saying that it was "horrific" and "motivated entirely by racism and intolerance".

The Sinn Fein MLA added: "Those of us in political leadership have to take a stand and demonstrate from our own actions that the sort of prejudice which gives rise to attacks like this is completely unacceptable."

South Belfast UUP Assembly members, Michael McGimpsey and Esmond Birnie also condemned the attacks.

In a joint statement, they said: “We express our disgust at these attacks and would ask the local community to offer their support to their Eastern European neighbours. It is vital that we get the message out that hate crime will not be tolerated and is repugnant to the vast majority of the population.

“We would urge anyone with information to contact the PSNI immediately."

They concluded by saying that there is no place for racism and intolerance in our society.

(EF)


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