Police firing plastic bullets and powerful water cannons forced Catholic militants away from a disputed Belfast road on Tuesday as Northern Ireland’s annual day of Protestant marches reached a fiery climax. Catholic youths lashed out at police both before and after the marches by the Orange Order, a Protestant brotherhood whose yearly July 12 demonstrations celebrate 17th-century military triumphs over Catholics – and often inspire a violent response from the province’s minority. Hundreds of mostly teenage Catholics, who covered their faces with masks and hoods, waged running street battles with riot police in north Belfast.
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