A civil rights march organised by the Newry People's Democracy committee was abandoned after it had been stopped for an hour by police. A decision to reroute the march had been taken on 9 January 1969 based on information that a counter-demonstration was planned - Major Ronald Bunting had given notice of "a trooping of colours and cavalcade." Following events at Burntollet and Derry, there was a ground-swell of support for the Newry civil rights march.
The march leaders had intended that there would be a token breach of police barriers followed by an announcement that several public buildings had been occupied in protest. However, by the time the leaders reached the police cordon, a large crowd was already blocking the route. After a stand-off this group, which had been ahead of the main body of marchers, attempted to rush the barrier. The stewards were unable to keep the crowd back, and police tenders were attacked and burned. A number of civil rights leaders, including John Hume, addressed the crowd and asked that they disperse. Many did so, but hundreds stayed.
Rioting continued into the early hours of the morning. Afterwards, civil rights campaigners condemned those who had been involved in violence. Poor organisation and communication had meant that the leaders had not been able to control the 5,000-strong march once it had been halted by police.
The accompanying image shows civil rights marchers in Newry in 1969.
© RTÉ Stills Library 0125/064
On a foggy day in Newry, Co. Down, stewards try to organise a civil rights march that would eventually number 5,000.
A civil rights march in Newry begins peacfully protesters marching hand in hand and singing "we shall overcome" but ends in violence. The march descends from a passive protest to violence.
Michael Keogh of the Nationalist Party blames the rerouting of the civil rights march by the police and government for the disturbances in Newry.
Tom Keane talks to RTÉ News reporter, Donal Kelly, about the disturbances of the previous day.