Source: NY Times:
BELFAST — Fifty-six police officers and two civilians were injured in clashes in central Belfast in the latest flare-up in tensions between Northern Ireland’s Protestant and Catholic communities, authorities said on Saturday.
Many of the injuries were minor, but four officers were taken to hospital after the clashes late on Friday, during which police fired plastic bullets and water cannon after being pelted with missiles for a second successive night.
Belfast remains divided between pro-British Protestants and Catholics who generally favor unification with Ireland, despite a 1998 peace and power-sharing deal that put an end to the worst of the “troubles” in the British province.
Protestants tried to block a march on Friday evening along the city’s main thoroughfare, Royal Avenue, by the nationalist side of the community and when police moved in to clear them, they threw bricks, bottles and fireworks.
Burnt-out cars and rubble littered the city centre and shop fronts were damaged. Police said seven people were arrested.
“It was sheer thuggery,” said Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton, who commanded Friday night’s police operation.
“There were all sorts of weapons and equipment being used against the police including scaffolding and masonry. People were pulling up the paving stones from the busiest shopping precinct in Belfast.”