Police attacked again in 40th day of Northern Ireland flag riots

People walk pass a burning bus in Rathcoole, North Belfast on January 11, 2013, after a Loyalist demostration as part of an ongoing campaign opposing Belfast City Council's decision to restrict the days on which the British Union Flag will fly over the City Hall. Pro-British demonstrators have taken to the streets, in sometimes violent protest, almost every night since December 3, when the city council announced it would no longer fly the Union Flag all year round at City Hall. Protesters have pelted police with petrol bombs, fireworks, bottles and stones. PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images

BELFAST, Northern Ireland Crowds of militant Protestants have attacked police and blocked roads across Belfast as protests over Belfast City Council's decision to lower the British flag reached their 40th day.

Protesters, many of them bedecked in British flags and related emblems, blocked two dozen roads at rush hour Friday night. Thousands of workers fled the city early in expectation of what has become common since Catholic council members voted Dec. 3 to remove the British flag from city hall except for 18 official days annually.

Police say their officers have suffered barrages of firebombs, fireworks, bottles, rocks and bricks in the Belfast suburbs of Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus. They have responded with blasts from mobile water cannons and plastic bullets.

Northern Ireland's major freeway also has been closed because of a bomb alert.

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