Protestant March ends in battle
Army uses water canon against protesters
A Protestant march against the creation of “no-go” areas in Londonderry has ended in a bloody battle on the Craigavon Bridge.
Soldiers used rubber bullets and water cannon to control the crowd when the so-called “Tartan gangs” at the tail end of the march began to throw bottles and stones at the Army.
The bridge was the centre of the trouble as it joins the Protestant side of the town to the “no-go” Roman Catholic areas of Bogside and Creggan.
Despite pleas from march organisers for the violence to stop it did not end until the Ulster Defence Association stepped in. They formed a human barrier between the protesters and the Army.
The confrontation lasted an hour and resulted in one man being injured but no arrests.
“We are no longer protesting – we are demanding action“
William Craig, Vanguard Movement
A spokesman for the Army said: “Naturally it is regretted that we have to fire rubber bullets but there we are. The only alternative is the Bogside would be invaded by the Protestant marchers.”
The biggest security operation since the start of the Troubles had been set up for the march with soldiers on every corner.
Despite the violence William Craig the leader of the Vanguard Movement, who organised the march, said the marches would go on.
“We are no longer protesting – we are demanding action” he said.
The 10,000 strong march set off from Irish Street at 1500GMT to call for an end to the ‘no-go’ areas on the east bank side of the River Foyle.
1972 became the bloodiest year of The Troubles. Some 470 people were killed that year, the overwhelming majority of them civilians.
On 31 July 1972 the then Northern Ireland Secretary William Whitelaw ordered 20,000 soldiers to dismantle IRA barricades in the no-go areas of Derry and Belfast.
The “no-go” areas, known as Free Derry, were areas where both the IRA and Provisional IRA could openly patrol, train and open offices with widespread support and without involvement of security services.
Bogside, Creggan and Brandywell made up the area Free Derry, and it is still known by that name despite the barricades no longer being there.