By Anthony Neeson
Over 100 people have been arrested and over 60 police officers injured since loyalists began their protest over the removal of the Union flag from
Belfast City Hall.
On Monday night, loyalists rioted for the fifth consecutive night in East Belfast, with the PSNI claiming that members from the Ulster Volunteer
Force (UVF) were behind the disturbances.
During Monday night's trouble, which came after a protest outside Belfast City Council - meeting for the first time since the historic December 3 decision - plastic bullets were fired in the east of the city and water canon was used to disperse rioters. Rioters used hatchets, a sledge hammer and petrol bombs to attack police and their vehicles.
At the weekend, there was special sittings of Belfast Magistrates Court to deal with those arrested.
Three police officers were also injured during the Monday night violence. It brings to sixty-two the number of PSNI officers who have been injured since the protests began.
Condemning the violence PSNI Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, said senior UVF member had been involved in orchestrating violence during the protests in East Belfast. He said day-to-day policing was being affected by the flag protests.
On Tuesday British secretary of state, Theresa Villiers, called for an end to all street demonstrations.
Ms. Villiers said: "It's not acceptable that those who say they are defending a union flag are actually doing it by hurling bricks and petrol bombs at
police. It's disgraceful, frankly. We will not be able to get a solution if Belfast and Northern Ireland are being held to ransom by protesters."
SDLP policing spokesperson, Conall McDevitt, said political unionism bears a "heavy responsibility" for the "chaotic and distressing scenes" on the streets.
"These protests no longer have legitimacy when we have seen a consistent spiraling toward unlawful, violent and destructive scenes which shame the city of Belfast and have very little support in the wider community."