LOYALIST rioting last night spread beyond Belfast, with police coming under serious attack, while flag protests yet again brought many parts of the North to a standstill.
Five baton rounds and water cannon were deployed by police as they were attacked with petrol bombs, fireworks and other missiles in Carrickfergus.
A mob attacked police in Newtownabbey, just north of Belfast, and vehicles were also set on fire elsewhere as a massive security operation by the PSNI failed to stop violent attacks by groups protesting against the restrictions on the flying of the union flag above Belfast City Hall.
The PSNI said that 33 petrol bombs were thrown at police lines and at least four officers were injured.
Despite almost a week of nightly violence in east Belfast the area remained peaceful last night. But the riots have now shifted outside the city to other loyalist strongholds.
Rioting erupted in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey after a double-decker bus was set alight.
Eyewitnesses said children as young as eight were involved in the violence against police, who were attacked with petrol bombs and bricks.
A short time later, serious disorder broke out in the West Street area of Carrickfergus.
Officers came under attack by a large crowd following a protest in the area. Police were forced to fire five baton rounds to try and control the disorder.
A car was also set alight at a protest site in the Sandy Row area of Belfast.
Scores of roads were blocked across many parts of the North yesterday evening as loyalist flag protesters took to the streets in what they called Operation Standstill. It is thought that up to 100 protests were held. Demonstrations were also held in Liverpool and Glasgow.
The Westlink road in Belfast and Creighton's road in Dunmurry were closed due to security alerts. A pipe bomb was later discovered along the Westlink.
In one part of Belfast, a doctor was twice prevented by protesters from making a home visit to a seriously ill cancer patient.
He was eventually able to make his way to the patient's home after the protest had ended.
During another protest, a pensioner got into an angry confrontation with demonstrators as he tried to get home to his terminally ill wife.
When they refused to let him make his way home, he shouted at them: "What would you do if your wife was dying? ... Get yourselves off home." He was forced to turn around and as he did the protesters started jeering and taunting him.
There is increasing anger that the PSNI has been unable to keep roads open during the loyalist flag protests, which have been ongoing for over a month.
In some instances, just three or four people were able to bring traffic to a standstill.
Angry members of the public say they feel that the PSNI has been facilitating the protests.
Earlier in the week, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott said his first priority was public safety and added that it would take around 4,000 police officers to keep the roads open at the site of so many protests.
There was a mass exodus from Belfast yesterday afternoon as workers, shoppers and commuters attempted to get home before the protests.
All metro services in the east, north and south of the city were cancelled and a number of taxi drivers reported that they were unable to pick up customers because of the road blocks.
A PSNI spokesman said most of the protests were peaceful "although disruption was caused to the road network in Belfast and across the country".