Monday, 4 January 2016

4‭ ‬January‭ ‬1969:‭ ‬The‭ ‘‬Peoples Democracy‭’ ‬March from Belfast to Derry was attacked at Burntollet Bridge outside Derry City by Loyalists on this day.‭ ‬The RUC flanking the procession failed to offer any meaningful protection to the marchers as they were assaulted and beaten.‭ ‬The original march had begun from Queens University in Belfast on‭ ‬1‭ ‬January and was undertaken to highlight the lack of Civil Rights in the North of Ireland.‭ ‬Along the way to Derry the marchers had been continually heckled and occasionally attacked.‭ ‬However when they reached the narrow defile at Burntollet outside Derry City they were the victims of an organised ambush and viciously attacked by a Loyalist mob.‭ ‬The RUC who were in attendance made no serious attempt to intervene and thus encouraged the attackers that kept up their assault as the marchers ran the gauntlet through to the other side.

One eyewitness described what he saw:

‭"‬The major portion of the C.R.‭ ‬procession was cut off and left at the mercy of the attackers.‭ ‬A fusillade of stones and bottles was followed by the full weight of the attack against the young men and women who had pledged themselves to a policy of non-violence.‭
"The attackers showed no mercy.‭ ‬Men were beaten senseless.‭ ‬Girls tore their way through the hedges screaming:‭ '‬No‭! ‬No‭!' ‬Shouting,‭ ‬club-waving,‭ ‬men pursued them.‭"

Irish News

Eventually the marchers got through,‭ ‬but not before many of them,‭ ‬incl women and girls,‭ ‬had been attacked and beaten and some seriously injured.‭ ‬Those still able then made their went into Derry and the sanctuary of those of their own persuasion.

Burntollet was a rude shock to much of the Catholic Middle Class vote in the North. While not all marchers were Catholics most of them were, and while most were not Socialists some of the marchers were. But one thing they did all have in common was a belief that after Burntollet - there could be no going back...

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