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Pavers and Molotov cocktails … New violence broke out Thursday evening in Belfast, Northern Ireland, agitated for a week by clashes. In this British province, Brexit has shaken a fragile balance between communities.
Demonstrations of anger continue in Northern Ireland, with stones and Molotov cocktails at the water cannons of the authorities. Police and rioters continued to clash late into the night from Thursday 8 April to Friday 9 April in Belfast.
Hundreds of young men and adolescents gathered in the early evening Thursday in an area in the west of the city, subject to heightened political and Brexit-related tensions. Some had stacked bricks in a supermarket cart, an AFP reporter noted. The inhabitants were reluctant to speak.
Masked, wearing balaclavas, they catapulted stones, bricks, firecrackers and bottles towards the roadblocks erected by the riot police using their armored Land Rovers. Thick black smoke rose in places after the explosion of Molotov cocktails.
More than 50 injured among the police
Armed with batons and shields, the police repelled the rioters, while the residents of the neighborhood were reduced to contemplate the spectacle behind their windows. Police used a massive water cannon when a group of men attempted to force open the barricade with a vandalized car.
Police also tried to appeal to influential people in the community to dissuade residents from joining the riots.
A few dozen elderly people, men and women, gathered Thursday near the sites where the violence of the day before had taken place, preventing the rioters from approaching or putting out a fire nearby.
>> See also: Northern Ireland: Sacred Union in the face of Brexit aberrations
The violence of the last days has already left more than 50 wounded in the police and resurfaced the specter of the three bloody decades of the “Troubles” between Republicans, mainly Catholics in favor of reunification with Ireland, and Protestant unionists, who 3,500 dead.
Risks of resurgence of community violence
Last week, violence first erupted in the city of Londonderry, before spreading to a loyalist area of Belfast and its surroundings during the Easter weekend.
Brexit has weakened the delicate balance between communities in the province, by requiring the introduction of customs controls between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Intended to prevent the return of a physical border between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, controls are held in Northern Irish ports.
Despite a grace period to allow companies to adapt, these new provisions disrupt supplies and are denounced by Unionists as a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and a betrayal on the part of London.