- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2000

BELFAST Police struggling to control a hard-line Protestant rebellion said yesterday they hoped street mayhem would subside once the Orange Order brotherhood mounts its biggest drum-thumping displays across Northern Ireland.
Catholics say police haven't done enough to protect them or to crack down on Orange protests. Scores of Catholic properties have been attacked, including two churches in predominantly Protestant towns.
Anti-Protestant extremists also have been active. Six Protestants were hospitalized for smoke inhalation after their rural Orange hall was struck with gasoline bombs early yesterday.
At least 80,000 Orangemen were expected to march through Belfast and more than a dozen other towns today for the Twelfth, a profoundly divisive holiday that commemorates the 1690 victory of Protestant William of Orange over his Roman Catholic foe, James II.
"We're taking nothing for granted, but the protests must run out of steam sometime. We're hoping that the Twelfth will mark that moment when people come to their senses," said Chief Superintendent Brian McCargo of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the province's mostly Protestant police force.
Police said that since Protestants began rioting July 2 over a blocked Orange Order parade in Portadown the organization's spiritual home 146 suspected rioters had been arrested, nearly 1,000 gasoline bombs seized, 88 vehicles hijacked and burned, and 57 officers and five British soldiers wounded.
Orange leaders urged their supporters yesterday to behave "in a totally peaceful manner" and "to be constant in prayer" an unlikely prospect given the traditional eve-of-march focus on heavy drinking around towering bonfires of wood planks, discarded furniture and tires.
The Twelfth has always served to deepen intercommunal tensions between British Protestants and Irish Catholics, who regard the marches particularly their unruly "kick the pope" bands of fife and drum as designed to insult and intimidate.
The Orange Order is an instrument of Protestant solidarity crucial to Northern Ireland's foundation in the 1920s, when the predominantly Catholic rest of Ireland broke free of Britain.
Until recent years, its marches usually stirred little violence, largely because Orangemen paraded the same routes year after year without challenge. But since 1995, when militant Catholic groups began blocking a few key parades that pass near or through Catholic areas, July has become a sectarian battleground.
To Orange fury, British authorities gradually have opted to block the most controversial processions in Belfast and Portadown rather than provoke Catholic riots.
A government-appointed Parades Commission has ordered Orangemen to steer clear of several predominantly Catholic villages today, as well as Lower Ormeau, a Catholic enclave beside a major south Belfast road. In response, Belfast Orangemen have decided to divert their entire city parade to a park across the Lagan River from Lower Ormeau.
Several thousand Orange members and their supporters blocked scores of roads Monday, causing Belfast and several other towns to shut their commercial centers early in anticipation of traffic chaos. After another night of clashes with police and the burning of stolen cars, surprise roadblocks resumed yesterday.

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