In 1968, two Civil Rights marches in Northern Ireland were banned by the Stormont Government. As the law stood such demonstrations were illegal. They had been called by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), a coalition of various groups both Protestant and Catholic and students. To challenge the inequality and discrimination against ethnic Irish Catholics that was perpetrated by the Ulster Protestant establishment. Both the marches met with violence on the orders of the Stormont Government.

The first protest march from Coalisland to Dungannon, took place on 24 August 1968. The march was publicised as a “civil rights march”, and the organisers emphasised its non-sectarian dimension. Bernadette Devlin (who became a civil-rights activist) described a festival atmosphere that turned “uglier” when the police stopped the march from entering Dungannon, where a counter-demonstration had been called by the Paisleyites. The NICRA organisers announced that they would not breach the police cordon. However, as Devlin recalls, they began to “lose their hold on the marchers”. According to Devlin, many of the initial organisers soon left after efforts to wind down the movement failed; those who remained “sat down in big circles all over the road and sang rebel songs till midnight”.
The second civil-rights march took place in Derry on 5th October 1968. The march was characterised by non-sectarian civil-rights demands, including an end to gerrymandering and discrimination in housing and the right to vote. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) attempted to violently disperse the marchers. Chaos erupted as the protesters found themselves trapped between two lines of the RUC. The police drove the protesters across the river into the Catholic area of the Bogside: “By this time the original confrontation between marchers and the police had given way to a general battle between the police and young residents of the Bogside, most of whom had taken no part in the march”. It was all downhill from here and what followed as led to the death of over 3,500 individuals.
1969 saw unprecedented violence break out across the whole of Northern Ireland, the vast majority of the violence carried out by Prodestants against Catholics. Thousands of Catholic families were either forced out or burned out of their homes.

The birthdate of the Northern Ireland civil-rights movement is considered to be 5 October; images of police brutality were broadcast worldwide, and much of Northern Ireland’s population was horrified. In Derry, the period following 5 October was one in which established political forces and prominent individuals in Catholic areas tried to harness and control the movement’s energy.

The Battle of the Bogside was a very large communal riot that took place from 12 to 14 August 1969 in Derry, Northern Ireland. The fighting was between residents of the Bogside area (organised under the Derry Citizens’ Defence Association), and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) along with local unionists. The rioting erupted at the end of an Apprentice Boys parade which was passing along the city walls, past the Catholic Bogside. Fierce rioting broke out between local unionists and the police on one side and Catholics on the other. Rioting between police and Bogside residents continued for three days. The police were unable to enter the area and eventually, the British Army was deployed to restore order. The riot, which sparked widespread violence elsewhere in Northern Ireland, is commonly seen as one of the first major confrontations in the conflict known as the Troubles.