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Arrests, searches fail to deter Orange crowd

SHARE Arrests, searches fail to deter Orange crowd

Police moved into the fields near Drumcree Anglican church Wednesday where Orange Order marchers were protesting a ban on a parade through a Catholic neighborhood, arresting six people and searching for explosives.It was the first time police searched the pasture, site of an 11-day protest by members of Northern Ireland's largest Protestant fraternal order over a decision blocking them from sections of Portadown.

Police made no attempt to dislodge the protesters, and the arrests seemed to be an attempt to weed out perceived troublemakers in the crowd outside the church.

The police action followed a violent standoff overnight when about 300 people massed at a police barrier of barbed wire and trenches, and some threw bombs and fireworks at police and soldiers. Police said one man appeared to have a handgun, but no shots were fired and no injuries were reported.

Also Wednesday, police released without charge one of the two men arrested for questioning about the firebomb deaths of three boys Sunday in Ballymoney, 45 miles north of Portadown. The other man was still being questioned, police said.

The police and soldiers are enforcing a decision by the Parades Commission, created after trouble at Drumcree the past two summers, to forbid the march from going through a hostile Catholic neighborhood in Portadown.

Although crowds outside the Drumcree church have dwindled and violence has ebbed, the men of the Orange Order say they have settled in for a long siege to demand to march.

"Anybody who thinks that we are beaten and it's over is totally misreading the situation. We are still going to be here," said David Jones of the Portadown Orange Lodges.

"We are reviewing all the time where the protest action should go," he said.

Two years ago, officials stopped the march for four days but gave up in the face of violence across Northern Ireland by Protestant hard-liners.