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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 15:59 GMT
Protesters 'behaved like Nazis'
Protesters in Donegall Road area
The protesters insisted their demonstration was not racist
People involved in a protest in south Belfast against eastern Europeans who have moved into the area "behaved like Nazis", the local MP has said.

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said the demonstration by several dozen people on Donegall Road was scandalous.

The protesters insisted they were not racist, alleging anti-social behaviour by people moving into the area.

Police said they have not received any formal complaints of anti-social behaviour by foreign nationals.

In a statement the PSNI said they understood there were tensions in the area but that it was "the role of the police to deal robustly with incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour and bring the perpetrators before the courts".

Dr McDonnell said "the cheek could not be turned" to the protests.

"I have a lot of sympathy with the economic plight and difficulties on Donegall Road, and I have done much since I was elected MP to ensure government channelled resources into that area," he said.

"But how long can you go on turning the cheek in that situation when the people are behaving like Nazis."

Man inside by boarded-up window
The man attacked inside his home is considering moving out

However, the protesters denied their demonstration on the Donegall Road on Tuesday was down to prejudice.

Tom Morrow of the PUP said the authorities had to take action about the alleged anti-social behaviour.

"We want to live in peace and harmony," he said.

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

The protest came a day after three houses occupied by eastern Europeans were targeted in what police said may have been racially motivated attacks.

Up to seven men armed with baseball bats smashed their way into a house on Donegall Road, attacking a 51-year-old man with a hammer and breaking windows.

Protester's placard
Several dozen people turned up at the protest
The man said it was the third time they had been attacked and they were considering moving.

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

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.

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

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