BBC report on the Battle of the Bogside (1969)




This BBC news report on rioting in Bogside, Derry, titled “Police use tear gas in Bogside”, appeared on August 12th 1969:



“The Royal Ulster Constabulary has used tear gas for the first time in its history after nine hours of rioting in the mainly-Catholic Bogside area of Londonderry.

There have been numerous outbreaks of violence between Catholics and Protestants since the start of the summer marching season. Catholic feeling against the Royal Ulster Constabulary is also running high over their brutal tactics.

The shells were fired just before midnight sending a large crowd of youths scattering in all directions. Many sought refuge in nearby houses where residents treated their streaming eyes. A police armoured car was then sent at speed to break through the barricades the crowd had erected and roared off down Rossville Street, smashing smaller barriers in its path. As a crowd started to gather round the vehicle, the doors burst open and more tear gas grenades were hurled out.

The trouble began during the annual Apprentice Boys march. There were clashes as the Apprentice Boys marched along the wall, past the perimeter of the Catholic Bogside area. The RUC intervened and within hours the trouble had escalated into a full-scale riot.

The Northern Ireland Prime Minister Major James Chichester-Clark called a meeting last night of the Ulster Cabinet security committee at police headquarters in Belfast. It followed earlier violence in Londonderry city centre. Rioters threw petrol bombs, stones and iron bars against the armoured trucks and water cannon being used by police.

Protestants who gathered near the barricade in Rossville Street were egged on by police, as they aimed catapults armed with stones at the Roman Catholics on the other side. One American reporter, Robert Mott of the Washington Post, was clubbed to the ground and kicked during a police baton charge. He is said to have resumed reporting after treatment.

At one point a crowd from the Bogside began attacking police in Sackville Street. From the other end of the road a crowd of Protestant youths started advancing, picking up stones and hurling them back.

It was only after various Catholic and civil rights workers, including local MP and prominent civil rights worker, Ivan Cooper, intervened that some order was restored. Mr Cooper was later knocked unconscious by a stone.

The Independent MP for Mid-Ulster, Bernadette Devlin, toured the area of Rossville Street, urging demonstrators to get back behind the barriers, which had been hastily constructed using paving stones and planks left by building contractors working on new housing.

Eventually police made another baton charge up Rossville Street to clear the rioters – but they were followed by a group of stone-throwing Protestants and gradually beaten back.”