Ian Livingstone, a musician who blogs about Belfast, describes the scene today: “The roads were covered in bricks, broken glass, paint splashes (from paint bombs). Most of the windows of houses were boarded up... it was a very depressing sight.”
Police blamed an outlawed Protestant paramilitary group for starting the rioting, which saw masked and hooded youths throw bricks, bottles, fireworks and other missiles at each other, and at armored police vehicles, according to the Associated Press. Police fired more than 60 plastic bullets back at them.
About 400 people — both Catholics and Protestants — participated in the riots that were centered in Short Strand, a small Catholic community in a predominantly Protestant area of east Belfast.
An unnamed British Press photographer was shot in the leg and is now in stable condition at Royal Victoria Hospital.
Watch a video from Russia Television that shows the violence below:
See more video here.
The riots overshadowed the return of U.S. Open golf champion Rory McIlroy to his home town near Belfast.
Sectarian tensions often flare in days before the Twelfth of July, a divisive holiday in which tens of thousands of Protestants from the Orange Order brotherhood march across Northern Ireland. Last year, more than 80 police officers were injured on the holiday during four nights of riots in Catholic districts of Belfast.
Livingstone, who has lived in East Belfast his whole life, is used to the violence. When he was 10 years old, he was playing in the streets on Bloody Friday, the day in 1972 in which the paramilitary organization the Irish Republican Army bombed Belfast.
“We carried on playing while the bombs were going off and the ground beneath was shaking,” he says.
Livingstone tweeted his frustration about this week’s riots:
Putting childrens’ lives at stake is not good form. Stop manipulating the young and gullible. #belfast
He says his reaction to the riots is “Disgust. Sadness. Bewildered at the behaviour of some.” While he thinks sectarianism is on a slow wane in Northern Ireland, he expects blips of violence to continue until it fades away.
Below, see more photos of the violence today: