Police injured during loyalist protest march in Belfast

Hundreds of loyalists took part in the march through central Belfast

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Two police officers have been injured during a loyalist protest march in Belfast on Saturday.

Hundreds of loyalists took part in the march which came days before the first anniversary of a council decision to limit the flying of the union flag.

One of the injured officers was knocked unconscious and was taken to hospital. A 35-year-old man was arrested.

Police, however, welcomed the fact that the protest passed off without incident in the city centre.

The police officers were injured at the junction of Tennent Street and Crumlin Road as they blocked demonstrators who left the designated route.

The march began an hour late, breaching a Parades Commission ruling that had instructed the protesters to leave the city hall area by noon.

The parade organisers had expected up to 5,000 people to take part.

But on the day an estimated 1,500 demonstrators took to the streets in what became an unlawful parade, due to the delayed start of the march.

A PSNI spokeswoman said the priority had been to ensure that normal life in Belfast city centre "faced as little disruption as possible for as short a time as possible".

'Consequences'

"There were breaches of the Parades Commission determination and these will be investigated using the extensive evidence-gathering operation which was in place," she said.

"Individuals in breach of the determination should expect to face the consequences of their actions in due course."

Marchers hold banners in Belfast city centre The parade passed through Belfast city centre without incident but two police officers were injured as it moved towards the Crumlin Road

There have been regular protests and some disturbances in the city and throughout Northern Ireland following Belfast City Council's decision last December to restrict the flying of the union flag to 18 designated days each year.

The organisers of Saturday's demonstration, a group calling itself Loyalist Peaceful Protesters, did not mention the flags issue when they completed a Parades Commission form applying to stage the march.

The reasons they stated for the parade were "human rights", "political policing" and "PSNI brutality".

The same group organised a similar march through Belfast city centre on 21 September.

More than 3,000 protesters took part in the September march, which also breached a Parades Commission ruling.

The organisers of the earlier march had been told to leave the city hall at 12:00 BST but instead the protesters set off about an hour later, making the parade unlawful.

Traders in Belfast city centre had expressed concern ahead of both parades, citing a possible negative impact on their businesses.

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