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Two teenagers arrested for Belfast racial attacks

The duo have been charged with provocative conduct, intimidation of the Romanian familie 22 June 2009. The cops have finally swung into action. After over 100 Romanians were compelled to leave their homes in South Belfast following racists attacks, two teenagers have been charged in this connection.

The duo, age 16 and a year younger, are each charged with provocative conduct. The younger one is also accused of intimidation of the Romanian families.

The action comes at a time when the police strategy in dealing with this crisis has come under criticism. It is believed that by moving the Romanians away after their initial shelter in the church, a clear message has not been sent to the local community that it is being backed up to keep the Romanians safe.

The local community had earlier been standing up for the terror attack victims; and was doing their bit to provide them haven in their home area. 

In related developments, anti-racism rallies continued to be held in Belfast and other places, indicating that the racist attacks had provoked revulsion across Northern Ireland. One such protest, attended by several hundred people, was held outside Belfast City Hall. The participants said they were expecting it to be the first in a series of demonstrations aimed at bringing to the fore the public opposition to recent attacks on migrants.

The speakers at the rally included the president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Patricia McKenna.

The Anti-Racism Network made it clear there was widespread anger over the attacks and intimidation of Romanian people; and called for a coordinated response to the issue.

While asserting the Romanian families were so terrified they wanted to go back to their homeland, South Belfast MLA Anna Lo told the rally most of the migrants are already preparing to get out of Northern Ireland.

The MLA said she thought this was a “very sad picture for Northern Ireland, that we can’t protect people who have come seeking a better life.

"So many of them liked it here, they like the people here, they like their jobs – but what happened in the last few days makes them fearful of staying here.".

Hundreds of people, including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, also attended an inter-denominational event at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in south Belfast to express solidarity and show support for the Romanian families.

Addressing a gathering outside the church, the Deputy First Minister said: “I think it is absolutely wonderful to see the churches in south Belfast come together to make clear what is obvious to all that the vast majority of people in south Belfast deplore what happened. And that we are here in solidarity with the Romanians who were so badly abused last week.

“We passionately hope that as many of the Romanians as possible will stay.”

Former Presbyterian Moderator Ken Newel, preaching at the event, said he was shocked by the violence, and was shamed that 120 people were driven from their homes, but was proud of the reaction of the whole community against the violence or the attackers.

“The message is there is a battle for the soul of Ulster between a future of division, sectarianism and racism and a community that includes everybody, affirms everybody and welcomes everybody and through the strength of our faith it is a battle that we will win. “It is very important because you turn 500 people into 500 pro-active workers for the vision of inclusive Ulster. It is a team talk that turns people into athletes for change.”

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