At the front lines, Orange protesters toppled a tree onto one of the barriers and briefly crossed over before being repelled by police firing plastic bullets. No injuries were reported, but Orange spokesman David Jones warned of "complete confrontation between the Orange and the army and police" as July 12, traditionally a day of Catholic-nettling fife-and-drum marches by Protestants across Northern Ireland, approaches.
BELFAST, Northern Ireland: Leaders of the Orange Order on Thursday met with Tony Blair and demanded he throw open the barbed-wire gates to Portadown and allow their march despite Catholic protests. But Blair is unlikely to budge. "This same march was also banned in 1996," recalls TIME reporter Paul Connolly. "After four days of the same kind of Protestant mayhem, the authorities backed down. They reversed their decision, forced the march through, and there was even more violence along the route. This time, the parades commission is sticking by their decision, and Blair will likely back them up."