NEIGHBOURS of a family with two young children are trying to raise money for a new car after their vehicle was destroyed in a “racially-motivated hate crime”.
Vehicles were burned on a number of Belfast streets including Florida Street, Wayland Street and Carlingford Street in what appears to have been a co-ordinated series of attacks on Sunday morning.
Police said they are investigating a link between the arsons and are treating them as “racially motivated hate crimes”.
One Florida Street neighbour denounced those responsible as “cowardly bullies (who) crept through the dead of night to burn the car belonging to a family with young children”.
“The family are now faced with no transport, therefore no means to travel to work,” he said.
“We, their neighbours, want to get them a new van or to help with their transport costs until insurance pays out because its the right thing to do.”
A mixed race couple with five young children had their car destroyed in the Carlingford Street attack.
Rosmund Prah and Christopher Edmonds, who have lived in the north for 10 years, told the BBC they and their children have been deeply affected.
“It was really, really sad and pathetic… you just come out and you don’t have a car,” Ms Prah said.
“We have five children. It’s a difficult situation, especially for the children and you tell them our car has been burnt because we are black. What do I do? Do I pour acid on myself or something so that I will look different? I just don’t understand it.”
Mr Edmonds also described the attack as “cowardly”.
“I don’t know if the people who do these things have children themselves, but you know, it’s just mindless really.”
SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said the intimidation of Catholics and minority residents in south Belfast must be “robustly addressed by the PSNI and by political parties”.
The attacks were a five-minute walk from Cantrell Close, where Catholics have been intimidated from their homes by the UVF.
They also come just over a week after a van belonging to a charity that helps families and children in the Philippines was set alight.
Last month, a pig’s head was also left outside Inverary Community Centre and racist graffiti daubed on the walls.
Ms Hanna said they are “not random attacks”.
“The attacks are clearly an orchestrated attempt to intimidate and discourage any form of diversity, and it must be faced down,” she said.
“The victims are as much a part of this place as anyone else. They should not be forced to live in fear.”
PUP councillor John Kyle? said the community must “work together to make this criminality a thing of the past” and urged anyone with information to pass it on to PSNI.
Sinn Féin has asked police to say whether loyalist paramilitaries are behind the latest attacks.
Bimpe Archer, Irish News, 24 October 2017