Bands Forum in talks with police over parades

Band Forum has objected to what they describe as an 'arrest van' at Wakehurst where Saturday night's parade commenced.
Band Forum has objected to what they describe as an 'arrest van' at Wakehurst where Saturday night's parade commenced.

Representatives of Ballymena Bands Forum have met with police to discuss issues surrounding parades in the local area.

Earlier this week, the Forum had expressed ‘frustration and deep disappointment’ at what they termed a ‘new approach’ to the policing of such events.

A delegation of senior representatives from the Forum met with police chiefs in Ballymena PSNI Station on Tuesday to clarify their position on what they regarded as a breakdown in the working relationship which has resulted in smooth running of parades in the town over a number of years.

Forum officials said PSNI District Commander Henderson had assured their delegation that local police were happy with the previous model for parades in Ballymena and wished that process to continue.

On leaving the meeting, Forum Chairman Rodney Quigley said: “Although we constantly hear of the need to reduce policing costs, at the Ballykeel parade we saw an increase in deployed officers from 40 at the same parade in 2015 to 45 at the weekend - with the inclusion of two vehicles.

“For now we have to take the PSNI at their word that things will be looked at and with a parade next weekend we should be able to see results sooner rather than later. However, the PSNI can be left in no doubt that the resources and tactics they apply to parades in Ballymena will not go unnoticed or remain unchallenged.”

In a statement issued earlier this week, the Forum said that until the weekend, Ballymena would have been regarded as a ‘model of good practice’ for parades.

But a ‘last minute’ change in the PSNI command structure had left the Forum angered.

The forum’s statement outlining their concerns read: “The deployment of an arrest van accompanied by several officers at the starting point in Wakehurst set a very unsavoury tone from the off. A car deployed at Linenhall Street with its blue lights flashing for the duration of the parade would have left someone travelling through Ballymena thinking there was some sort of problem associated with the parade.

“One issue the local bands have always been proud of is the zero tolerance of on-street drinking at parades in Ballymena and the parades in the town have a reputation across Northern Ireland of being alcohol free. However a group of anti-socials gathered in an area to openly consume alcohol, smashing glasses and being generally unwelcome towards the families who had gathered to enjoy the parade.

“When this was pointed out to police officers they took no action resulting in this activity continuing throughout the parade. The Bands Forum would question why this was not nipped in the bud especially when there seemed to be an increased number of officers deployed around the streets of the parade.”