British unionist and Irish nationalist gangs are clashing in Belfast, and nobody can agree on why

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Sectarian violence not seen in nearly a decade has broken out in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with gangs of young British unionists and Irish nationalists throwing rocks, fireworks, and petrol bombs at each other over a “peace fence” for a second night Thursday. Earlier Thursday, leaders of the five-party Northern Ireland unity government jointly called for calm, as did British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin, and U.S. President Biden.

Northern Ireland police used water cannons and riot gear to try and break up Thursday’s riots, following a violent Wednesday night, when rival unionist and nationalist gangs briefly smashed open the peace wall dividing the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, and the unionists hijacked a bus and set it aflame. Since the unrest started March 29, 74 police officers have been injured, including 19 hurt in Thursday night’s melee. It isn’t clear how many rioters have been injured, as they “often avoid hospitals for fear of arrest,”

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