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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 22:42 GMT
Protest at 'anti-social conduct'
Protesters in Donegall Road area
The protesters insisted their demonstration was not racist
Several dozen people have staged a protest in south Belfast against alleged anti-social behaviour by people moving into the area.

It comes after three houses occupied by eastern Europeans were targeted on Monday in what police said may have been racially motivated attacks.

The protesters said their demonstration on the Donegall Road was not racist.

Tom Morrow of the PUP said the authorities had to take action, adding: "We want to live in peace and harmony."

"We have lived long enough in derelict conditions, we want to improve our living standards."

Mark Hewitt of the South Belfast Anti-Racism Network said that to say that the attacks were "a heat of the moment response" to problems caused by East Europeans living in the area was unbelievable.

"There are real problems faced by everyone living in the Village - problems of poor housing, unemployment and deprivation", he said.

The protest took place on Tuesday night.

Up to seven men armed with baseball bats smashed their way into a house on Donegall Road at 2200 GMT on Monday.

Man inside by boarded-up window
The man attacked inside his home is considering moving out
They attacked a 51-year-old man with a hammer and broke windows. He was treated in hospital for an arm injury.

Police said the same gang was believed to have smashed windows at two houses in nearby Fortuna and Coolfin Streets.

Speaking through a translator on Tuesday, the man said he believed those who carried out the attack did not like people from Poland.

He said it was the third time they had been attacked and they were considering moving.

Superintendent Ken Eccles said police were fully committed to bringing before the courts those responsible for racially motivated crime.

"We will not tolerate crimes of this nature, but we need the help and support of the local community," he said.

"They must also come forward to demonstrate that we will not allow this to happen."

The injured man was later discharged from hospital.

Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey said the "horrific" attack was "motivated entirely by racism and intolerance".

"Those of us in political leadership have to take a stand and demonstrate from our own actions that the sort of prejudice which gives rise to attacks like this is completely unacceptable," he added.


SEE ALSO:
Churches unite after race attack
12 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland
Family could leave after attack
23 Feb 06 |  Northern Ireland


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