The chief constable has stood over the PSNI's handling of a large demonstration in Belfast.

He was speaking after thousands attended a rally outside City Hall in Belfast on Wednesday over the death of George Floyd in the US.

The 46-year-old black man died in police custody in Minneapolis last month.

PSNI officers maintained a low-key presence at the event, with officers observing from a distance.

On Thursday morning, Chief Constable Simon Byrne tweeted that protests at this time amid the pandemic "will endanger lives".

Later appearing before the Policing Board, he stood over the PSNI's response.

"We have been asked questions about our approach yesterday but I think we also need to ask ourselves as a society in the community, what do people want from us and what was an acceptable outcome to yesterday because it's easy to get emotive about a response to the restrictions on governments but remembering also that was largely a peaceful protest, there were no arrests made," Simon Byrne said.

"And so what would be proportionate in terms of our response to then conduct a post event investigation or indeed seek to disperse that protest when ironically it was about an outcry in relation to police use of force and brutality.

"So we had to as ever, balance, a number of competing considerations when we supported the organisers yesterday who I don't think expected as many people to turn up.

"We did have dialogue, we were able to facilitate something that we allcherish - that opportunity to cry out when something offends us - and we'regoing to work with the organisers again in relation to the protest that is nowplanned for Saturday."

The Public Health Agency’s head of health protection, Dr Gerry Waldron, warned that public gatherings increased the risk to the population from coronavirus.

"We've got to bear in mind that the virus hasn't got any conscience and … doesn't recognise good causes," he told the BBC.

"Unfortunately, people that congregate in large groups, even if they're trying to maintain social distancing, put themselves and others in that group at risk."

Jolene Francis, who helped to organise the Belfast rally, defended the gathering and said many were wearing masks and using sanitisers.

"I would say that racial injustice and discrimination have been a health crisis since the beginning of time, and while I understand where the people are coming from, the government advice has also advised people to behave at their discretion, and that is also the message we pushed, to come down and act responsibly," she told the BBC.

"If you look at the pictures, if there are groups of people that were gathered, those are people that came together.

“Towards the back of the protest there were people spread out.

“I agree at the epicentre of the protest there was people gathered together, those people were wearing masks, they were using sanitisers, those people were incredibly emotionally charged.

“These are people who feel racial discrimination and injustice every single day."