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War of words over what took place there as cops arrived

CS spray used by police on Travellers’ site

By Staff Reporter

THE Police Ombudsman’s office has confirmed it is investigating an incident at a Travellers’ site on the Glen Road in which PSNI officers used CS spray on a group of Travellers including a heavily pregnant woman and a six-month-old baby.

The incident took place on Sunday night after the police returned 15-year-old Kimberly Kelly to the site after a group of friends she was walking with threw a plastic bottle on to the Andersonstown Road.

However, speaking to the Andersonstown News this week, the girl’s family claim police refused to release the girl on arrival at the site, sparking off a chaotic chain of events that led to use of CS spray.

“They had been walking home from Funderland when one of them threw a bottle onto the road and the police stopped them,” said Kimberly’s mother, Siobhan Donahue.

“They told Kimberly to walk on. When she refused they pushed her up against the railings, twisted her arm and threw her into the back of the jeep.”

When Kimberly was returned to the site, Siobhan identified herself as Kim’s mother and asked for her to be released.

“He [a police officer] said there was nobody of that name in the van,” said Siobhan. “He tried to close the van door and I told him to give me my child. They drove on so we went after them screaming to leave the child out, as you would.”

Neighbour Margaret McCann described how a PSNI officer swatted her in the face with a police hat after she tried to stop the police Land Rover from leaving the site with Kimberly.

“We’d begged them to let her out of the Jeep and they tried to beat us with the door of the Jeep and one hit me in the face with the hat,” she said.

Kimberly was subsequently let out of the van out as the police were exiting the Travellers’ site, say locals.

“She was snow-white and crying when they let her out, she said they told her they were going to ‘Bring her on a little spin to Lisburn’,” said Siobhan. “By then other people on the site had arrived and were shouting at the police for not letting her out of the van in the first place.”

Siobhan’s brother Mark, an Equality Officer with local Travellers’ support group An Munia Tober, claimed neighbour Theresa McCann, who is expecting a child in a matter of weeks, was manhandled by officers.

“Four police officers grabbed her and pushed her against the Jeep,” he said.

“It was then that they began using the spray on people as they were trying to come to her defence. When her partner Mervyn tried to drag the policemen off her they put him into the back of the Jeep, kneed him on the back and beat him with batons. They also sprayed him in the left eye with CS spray.”

“All I had asked was who had done that to my partner,” added Mervyn. They punched me in the face, CS-gassed me and pushed me into the back of the van. They then sprayed me right in the eye again and beat me up.”

Siobhan said she took her six-month-old daughter Laura to hospital that night to be treated for the effects of CS gas.

“She was being held away from the spray but it still managed to affect her,” she said.

“Her little eyes and nose were running like mad.”

“We want an explanation as to why they did that to Kim – falsely imprisoning a 15-year-old girl – and assaulting several members of the Travelling community,” said Mark.

“They acted like animals.”

A police spokesperson said  that officers returned a young person to the site “after a bottle was thrown from a group of young people at their vehicle”.

“Upon arriving at the Glen Road camp, police sought to speak to the young person’s mother.  A crowd subsequently gathered and became abusive to police,” said the spokesperson.

“Efforts were made to disperse the crowd, however an individual from the crowd proceeded to assault one of the police officers. This individual was detained and subsequently charged with assault on police, disorderly behaviour and resisting police.

“In response to the level of violence that officers were encountering and in order to minimise any further risk to officers, CS spray was used when attempting to detain the individual.”

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