Posters and a flag left at the Armagh Palace following a pro-Palestine protest on Tuesday evening are being treated as a hate crime.
The protests took place on Tuesday night at the Palace Demesne and at Craigavon Civic Centre in opposition to a decision taken by ABC Council to light up civic buildings in solidarity with Israel following the attacks by Hamas on October 7.
The decision to do so was a controversial one, agreed upon by a slim majority in the ABC Council chamber back in October.
Hundreds gathered to protest the decision in Armagh, where the Palestinian flag was raised outside the Palace.
After the protest, Police Inspector Gary McCullough said: “The right to protest in public is a human right enshrined in law.”
He added: “The Police Service will continue to facilitate such lawful freedom of expression however it must be stressed that this freedom does not nor should it protect statements, actions or written material that discriminate against, harass or incite hatred or violence against anyone, particularly on the basis of their race, religious belief, gender identity or sexual orientation. ”
Police also attended the building following a report of a theft on the same evening.
Officers attended at 6pm and it was reported three people were observed removing covers from lights at the front of the council building before making off in a blue vehicle.
On Wednesday morning, Armagh DUP councillor Scott Armstrong branded the scenes in Armagh as a “disgrace”, citing criminal damage caused to the property and the rope being cut to raise the Palestinian flag on the pole.
He said: “These are the actions of people who show no regard for the law or council property and they simply trash council policy where strict rules exist in law for the raising of flags. The only flag raised at the Council building is the Union flag and that is designated in law.
“This act of clear disregard is one of embarrassment for the organisers of this protest. What happened outside the Palace Buildings was not opportunistic, but calculated. Council property has been stolen and damaged and the PSNI are treating this as a hate crime.”
He added: “I expect a full and rigorous investigation of this matter by the PSNI and our Council Chief Executive.”