Racist attacks: Police say hate crimes were 'orchestrated'
- 29 July 2014
- From the section Northern Ireland
Police have said they believe eight hate crime attacks in east Belfast were "orchestrated".
Homes and cars were attacked and racist graffiti daubed on gable walls near Chobham Street and at a junction of Elmdale Street and Bately Street.
The windows of two houses in Bloomfield Avenue and Chobham Street were smashed overnight. Paint was also thrown over the second property.
Two cars were damaged in Rosebery Street and Ravenscroft Street.
A group of men were seen running off towards the Ravenscroft area shortly after the graffiti appeared.
The vehicle that was attacked in Rosebery Street was covered in paint and all of its windows were broken.
Ruzena Lakatosova was sitting in her living room watching television with her children when her home was paint bombed.
"It was a big shock. I was very scared for my children," she said.
The family, who are from Slokavia, have lived in the house for two years and had never had any problems.
She said she had always found people in Northern Ireland to be "very good people" and had no idea why her family had been targeted.
Mrs Lakatosova said she was worried that the family's home may be attacked again and said they did not know if they would continue to live in the house.
Police said the attacks took place some time before 22:50 BST on Monday.
Supt Mark McEwan said they were clearly racially motivated and designed to intimidate and scare people living within those homes.
"We're following a number of lines of investigation, including the submission of items seized for forensic examination from those scenes and that work is ongoing at the moment," he said.
He appealed to any members of the community to come forward with any information they might have.
"We're working very closely with our partner agencies, such as Belfast City Council, the Housing Executive, the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities and other community groups to support the victims and the wider community, but to support primarily the victims through the investigative process," he said.
"I believe this is not reflective of the wider area. This is not reflective of east Belfast."
Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford condemned the attacks.
"Overnight we have seen faceless people hiding under cover of darkness to carry out cowardly attacks on people and property," he said.
In a tweet, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he "unreservedly" condemned the racist attacks in east Belfast.
Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland said there was "absolutely no justification" for targeting the homes or property of foreign nationals.
"It is totally unacceptable that anyone should be subject to attack or intimidation because of their race, religion or nationality," he said.
"Those responsible for last night's attacks need to seriously consider the impact it has on the image of east Belfast."
SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell condemned the attacks, describing them as "despicable and cowardly".
"Belfast cannot be allowed to become the racist capital of the north, especially when so many people from here have been welcomed in so many countries around the world," he said.
"These attacks must not be tolerated. People have the right to live in peace, but no one has the right to instil fear and tension in any community."
The DUP's Robin Newton said the attacks were "disgraceful".
"East Belfast is a kind, welcoming place inhabited by kind and welcoming people," he said.
"It is utterly shameful that the reputation of our community should be tarnished by racist thugs who offer nothing but hatred and bitterness."