Byker football yob jailed for city centre riot against Black Lives Matter protest

Michael O’Brien, of Byker, had been among a group of Newcastle United supporters who stormed a Burnley pub just six months before the shameful city centre scenes

A convicted football yob has been jailed for taking part in a city centre riot when a baying mob clashed with Black Lives Matter supporters.

Just six months before participating in the shameful scenes in Newcastle, Michael O’Brien was one of a group of Newcastle United supporters who stormed a pub in Burnley after an away game. He was subsequently jailed for two years for that violent disorder.

Now O’Brien, who volunteers at a youth football club, and two other men – one of them, like O’Brien, said to be wearing a cap showing affiliation to “football risk groups”, have been locked up for their part in a loud and intimidating disturbance in June 2020.

Police officers, horses and dogs were injured, along with members of the public, as around 1,000 people, in two opposing groups, gathered at Grey’s Monument. A peaceful protest planned in support of the Black Lives Matter movement was met by counter-protesters who threw cans, bottles and other missiles.

Two men were jailed for their parts in the violent disorder on Tuesday and now O’Brien, Ronald Short and Ryan Barlow have joined them behind bars with all three sentenced to 27 months.

Newcastle Crown Court heard O’Brien, 55, of Beresford Gardens, Byker, Newcastle, who was wearing a Green Bay Packers cap, moved to the front of the counter-protest after flares were thrown by the Black Lives Matter group. He remonstrated with officers and was pushed away but refused to retreat.

The court heard he raised his hands to a member of the public who was shouting at him to go away and police intervened but he tried to move towards the Black Lives Matter group and police had to stop him.

He went on to tussle with police and tried to stop them detaining an offender then threw a can, hitting an officer on his helmet then joining in a surge. O’Brien was then seen to punch a member of the public, who was then also hit by someone else.

He was picked out by a football spotter who recognised him. The 55-year-old has 10 previous convictions, including for violent disorder six months before the city centre riot, after travelling to a Newcastle United match at Burnley and became involved in violence in a pub. He was jailed for two years and given a Football Banning Order for that.

Short, 28, of Stockwell Greet, Walkerville, Newcastle, who has previous convictions for threatening behaviour, battery and drunk and disorderly, was seen on footage wearing a Newcastle United face mask and a Green Bay Packers cap. Others were wearing the same cap and prosecutors suggested “this meant he has an affiliation to football risk groups”.

The court heard he was seen to pick up an item and hurl it towards the police and Black Lives Matter group then he searched the floor and found three more missiles which he threw, according to prosecutors but he pleaded guilty on the basis he only threw two items.

Barlow, 28, of Parklands Way, Felling, Gateshead, who has no previous convictions, who was not said to be affiliated with any specific group, was seen to throw a can of Stella Artois toward the police and Black Lives Matter supporters, which contributed to an escalation in a tense situation.

He was asked to leave by police but refused and was seen with his arms up joining in chanting. He was then seen to pick up items from the floor and threw them at mounted police.

One police officer on a horse was struck in the head and Barlow then threw a carrier bag containing items, possibly bottles or cans, which hit a horse in the face and head then landed on a police dog.

Helen Towers, for O’Brien, said there were a number of references for him and said he volunteers at a youth football club. She added that he had been elected by fellow prisoners as a violence reduction representative and has “excelled” in prison.

Miss Towers added: “He accepts full responsibility for his completely unacceptable behaviour. He bitterly regrets his actions and is determined to turn his life around.”

Jonathan Cousins, for Short, said: “When he got out of bed that morning to attend this protest it was not with any intention to commit acts of violence. He understands it was completely unacceptable and he regretted what he did almost immediately after it happened and has regretted it ever since.”

Brian Hegarty, for Barlow, said he threw a can he was drinking from as an “instinctive reaction” to items being thrown from the other group. He added: “What he did was reckless but not intended to hurt anybody and he very much hopes he didn’t hurt anybody.”

Mr Hegarty said Barlow was not linked to any of the groups who attended and had gone there after reading about the protest on Facebook. He added: “He is embarrassed and ashamed of himself about getting involved. He fully accepts what he did was stupid and he should not have put himself in that position. He has shown remorse and was at a low ebb at the time.”

Newcastle Chronicle

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