Burntollett

Civil Rights March From Belfast To Derry

On New Years Day 1969 a group of student activists began a march from Belfast to Derry to draw attention to the repressive nature of the state.

The march was harassed along the route before being viciously attacked at Burntollet Bridge, a few miles outside Derry.

There were allegations that the police had colluded with those who opposed the march and in the city the inevitable rioting began. At 2am on the following a group of policemen invaded the Bogside and caused havoc. The Cameron Commission later found that: a number of policemen were guilty of misconduct which involved assault and battery, malicious damage to property ... and the use of provocative sectarian and political slogans.

The following day the famous slogan, ‘You are now entering Free Derry’, was painted on a gable wall in the Bogside. The slogan was intended to indicate that the writ of the RUC did not apply in the catholic ghetto areas of Derry. It would eventually become a symbol of the so-called ‘no-go’ area of the Bogside. The wall, with its slogan, still survives and is now preserved as a historic monument.

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