Sunday marked a third night of disorder in the cities of Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, where police were targeted with petrol bombs and cars hijacked and set alight.
The clashes involved children as young as 12, according to a statement from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
On Saturday night 30 petrol bombs were thrown at police in Newtownabbey, Belfast and three vehicles were hijacked and set on fire, police said, in what they described as an “orchestrated attack.”
It followed riots on Friday across both cities following a decision not to prosecute leaders of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein for allegedly breaking coronavirus restrictions by attending the funeral of a former leading IRA figure during lockdown last year. The decision is being reviewed.
Instead, it creates a de facto border down the Irish Sea as goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain are subject to EU checks — a move which has angered pro-British Unionists.
Police deemed the escalating violence as “unacceptable” and appealed to residents to help diffuse any local tensions and prevent further incidents.
David Campbell, chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council, recently told CNN that “it’s very easy for matters to spiral out of control, that’s why it is essential for dialogue to take place… but [if not] for the Covid restrictions there would already have been demonstrations — I’ve no doubt the ports would have been blockaded.”
Speaking about Friday’s incident, Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said in a statement: “This evening we have unfortunately seen running skirmishes between young people and the PSNI in the Sandy Row area following a protest that was organised by loyalists against the protocol.”
“I appeal to the DUP and political unionism to show leadership, to end their dangerous rhetoric and to ensure there is an urgent de-escalation of tensions,” Maskey added.
CNN’s Kara Fox contributed to this report.