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Council to send observer to upcoming court case following 'Black Lives Matter' rally in Derry

Local councillor among those fined at the protest

Shaun Harkin

Councillor Shaun Harkin is among those due to appear in court soon.

People fined for taking part in a recent 'Black Lives Matter' rally in Derry have been served with notices to appear in court.

A large crowd attended the rally in the Guildhall Square on June 6 despite appeals for the protest to be called off because of public safety fears in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the rally, which organisers insisted was carried out following social distancing guidelines, police issued fines to a total of 57 people.

During a similar rally on the same day in Belfast, police officers handed out 11 fines.

One of those fined at the Derry rally was Shaun Harkin, a People Before Profit councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council.

At yesterday's monthly meeting of the council, Cllr Harkin said he was among a group of people who had been served with a notice to appear in court.

Speaking at the meeting, independent councillor Gary Donnelly proposed that the council send an officer to the court case in an observational role.

His proposal was supported by independent councillor Paul Gallagher who said that Cllr Harkin had been at the recent rally as a result of his mandate to represent local people.

Cllr Gallagher said that in these circumstances the council should stand with Cllr Harkin.

DUP Alderman David Ramsay accused Cllr Donnelly of 'showboating' in relation to his proposal.

Alderman Ramsay said any member of the public could attend a court case and he claimed that Cllr Donnelly was trying to 'wind people up'.

Fellow DUP councillor, Alderman Maurice Devenny, told the meeting that his party would not be supporting the proposal.

He said that in these difficult times council officers were needed at their work.

The council's solicitor, Philip Kingston, told the meeting that there was no legal issue with the council sending an observer to a court case.

The proposal was put to a vote.

Twenty eight councillors supported it and 10 councillors voted against. One councillor abstained from the vote.

Cllr Harkin thanked those who had put forward and supported the proposal and said it sent a message of support from the council to those who had been fined.

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