This post has been written by regular contributor Brian John Spencer

Let’s get this very straight. There is no absolute and unabridged right to protest. People like Simon Hamilton who say there is an "absolute right", are very wrong. Yes the land is planted thick with laws which protect our liberty. However, protections also exist that limit liberty, in the event and only in the event, that a person's use of freedom infringes the liberty of other persons.

In a Northern Ireland rapidly advancing in civilization, the whole history of the flags protests has been one of anti-civilisation; of gratuitous and promiscuous violence and vandalism. Of the anti-civilisationists acting to deprive and limit the rights of those who wish to live in civilization with liberty, peace, safety and prosperity. Protest and march after march, loyalists have shown themselves pathologically incapable of marching peaceably or in a manner that is open, decent or even remotely family-friendly.

As Visit Belfast found out from some very unfortunate tourists, it's been the consummate jungle and booze filled circus. (And let's come back to that matter in a later day, that the 12th has degenerated into a festival of piss (preface here).)

And on this matter the precedent has been set: loyalist protesters exercise their liberty at the expense of society's liberty. This cannot stand. We cannot tolerate this. Their violent experiment has been tried and they will continue it upon us at the expense of our liberty. 

On these grounds, I can present the argument that these marches should be heavily restricted in way that is in accordance with the law, and in a way that is neither an indiscriminate or disproportionate restriction on a person’s right to protest. 

Here's the European law:
Article 11 – Freedom of assembly and association 
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. 
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State. 
By virtue of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights you possess the liberty to protest by holding meetings and demonstrations with other people.

By virtue of Article 11 you possess the responsibility to act peacefully and without violence or threat of violence.

On the balance of rights and responsibilities, the right to protest may be restricted provided such interference has a proper legal basis, is necessary in a democratic society and pursues one of the following recognized and legitimate aims:
– National security
– Public safety
– The prevention of disorder or crime
– The protection of health or morals
– The protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Any interference in the Article 11 right must not only be justifiable, but necessary. 

Here's domestic law:

There are a number of legislative provisions which allow the restriction or prosecution of public protest. Provisions such as offences under the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, the Protection from Harassment (Northern Ireland)Order 1997, the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Anti-social Behaviour Act2003

In the event of breaching the terms of any parade set by the Parades Commission, this is a crime under the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998.

In the event that a person incites another person to disobey a Parades Commission ruling, that person can be charged with inciting a breach of a ruling as a specific offence under the Public Order Act.

The argument:

Now, I submit myself to my honest and honorable readers: Do loyalists march peacefully, without violence or threat of violence? Do they compromise our national security? Do they compromise public safety? Do they promote disorder and crime? Do they pervert the freedoms of others? Do they unleash fear and uncertainty writ large across the whole of Belfast?

I take leave to submit that Loyalists have consistently violated every single one of these elementary duties they owe towards their fellow citizen. Newton Emerson agreed. He said in the Sunday Times here that "Flag protesters have rode roughshod over all these concerns and it is irresponsible to indulge any notion of their “right” to do so."

By that fact, the simple case should be made that this coming march should be heavily restricted if not banned.

By the Loyalist precedent for violence, I suggest that there is an imminent likelihood that Saturday's peace and prosperity will be breached. On the balance of liberties, I submit that Loyalist protesters will hold sway over the city and hold much of civic society hostage by their delinquency.

Because of our indulgence of them, Loyalism has constructed a hideous mentality of Loyalist exceptionalism. That they can act with impunity and that they’re immune from the laws we must subscribe to. Call them out and you get more rioting. Call them out and you get accused of police brutality. This is a hideous distortion.

They have also constructed some disgusting grievance culture. That they have it hard in a way unlike any one else. Catholics and nationalists have it hard. Moderate loyalists and unionists have it hard. These are challenging times for us all. You would think that beyond the walls of loyalism lies a utopia. This is babyish babble.

Now ladies and gentlemen, what are we to do? I suggest we take a stand and offer a modicum of civic opposition. Loyalism wields arbitrary power over a civil majority in Northern Ireland. They make grand, abstract claims. No power can exist unchecked. Grand claims cannot go out unopposed.

They can have their protest this week. But I suggest something changes. Friends, I beseech you. They will repeat their foul experiment upon us. As long as we let them. Stop appeasing this horrendous nonsense. It's time to stand up and oppose these squalid little bigots who masquerade themselves as civil rights protesters and call them out for what they are: uncivil shites. Use the law as it exists. Lodge complaints. Campaign against this shower of loyalist incontinence.