Belfast rally against sectarianism
Date: 02-August, 2002 Source: RM_Distribution
Thousands of people turned out today for an anti-sectarianism rally at Belfast city hall.
The demonstration was called following the sectarian murder of north Belfast teenager Gerard Lawlor last week. The 19-year-old Catholic was shot dead by the UDA as he walked home after a night out.
Backed by trade unions, church leaders and nearly all the political parties, Mr Maskey, Belfast's first Sinn Fein Mayor, had called the huge demonstration after Catholic teenager Gerard Lawlor was gunned down by the loyalist UDA two weeks ago.
Several thousand heeded the call and took to the street outside City Hall. Only the hard-line Democratic Unionists boycotted today's rally.
The Sinn Fein Lord Mayor told the crowd it could make a difference.
After launching the anti-sectarian rally with a period of silence for the recent victims of the violence, he said: "Homes are being wrecked and people are being killed. Stop now"
"Please consider this rally today as the formal public launch of our anti-sectarian campaign."
The crowd also heard Bob Gourley of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions spell out a startling message.
He said: "The evil purveyors of bigotry have declared war on us all and wished to ensure that the legacy of hatred continued."
"To each and every one of you in attendance here today, sectarianism kills all of us and we must all fight against sectarianism at every opportunity in our workplaces, societies, clubs, as well as in our immediate and extended families."
Marie McColgan, mother of Catholic postman Daniel McColgan who was shot dead by loyalists earlier this year, was among those present.
After the rally Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams called on people to unite against sectarianism.
"Today's rally sends out a clear statement that ordinary people in Belfast want their political and civic leaders to unite against the scourge of sectarianism," the West Belfast MP said.
"Sectarian violence is the biggest threat to the peace process at this time.
"I commend the Mayor of Belfast, the City Council, the churches, [business leaders] and trades unions for organising today's rally."
* Healthcare workers held a one-day stoppage on Thursday after loyalist paramilitaries posted a bullet to one of their number. More than 400 healthcare employees took part in their own rally against sectarian threats at Transport House in Belfast yesterday.
* Meanwhile, a church in north Belfast has been badly damaged in an arson attack overnight.
The fire at the Whitehouse Presbyterian Church on the Shore Road began at around 4 am. An adjoining garage was also alight.
Fire services were called and the fire was put out within half an hour. However, the church was completely gutted and the garage was badly damaged. At least six lorries were destroyed.