On a bright January day in 1972, more than 10,000 people gathered in Derry to protest civil rights violations against detention without trial, detaining and interrogating civilians suspected of involvement by the IRA.
Distracted by the army, the march headed for Free Derry Corner to await a speech by young deputy and activist Bernadette Devlin. Some broke off and began to throw stones over the barriers where a paratroop regiment of British soldiers was stationed. A building occupied by some soldiers became the target of the demonstrators. Soldiers fired in response to the crowd, injuring two unarmed men.
The full truth about what happened next was not officially recognized for decades. Thirteen people were shot this Sunday. When soldiers were ordered to cross the barriers, trains in armored vehicles dragged people to houses in the Bogside. The heart of a nationalist area was claimed to be Free Derry and shot at running unarmed people and crawling away.
Her first victim was 17-year-old John "Jackie" Duddy, who was shot in the back as he fled through a residential park. The soldiers fired more than a hundred rounds on civilians. Some bullets ripped through one person's body and hit another. A father was shot dead trying to reach his dying son.
On Thursday, families gathered at City Hotel in Derry to hear that the prosecutor's office in Northern Ireland is charging one of 19 suspects – 17 former British soldiers and two alleged official members of the IRA – for the bloody Sunday murders. Public prosecutor director Stephen Herron said there was "enough evidence" to convict Soldier F about the murder of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell to pursue.
He added that the decision not to bring charges against others "in no way affects the determination of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that the killed or injured did not threaten any of the soldiers."
Julieann Campbell, Jackie Duddy's niece, had been cautiously hopeful. She confirmed before the decision that there would not necessarily be justice for every family, but wanted to see the persecution of Soldier F. "A soldier is for all families," she said.
Speaking shortly after the decision in the Guildhall, Mickey McKinney, an activist of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, said The decision "does not mean that these soldiers have not acted unworthily and inappropriately".
Another relative who spoke at Guildhall said the decision was "further confirmation of our decade-long campaign to erase the names of our loved ones."
But for many families, some of whom were on the march of 1972 and witnessed the shootings themselves, the single persecution will be a disappointment.
The British government has conducted two investigations since Bloody Sunday. The first, chaired by John Widgery, ruled that there was "strong suspicion" of civilian casualties firing or handling bombs. Soldiers were relieved, but many believed it was a coverup.
The Widgery allowed the soldiers to testify anonymously and neglected evidence from civilian witnesses. Later, the activists found a declassified memo, in which Prime Minister Edward Heath said John Widgery said the UK is fighting not only against a military war, but against a propaganda war. A press release issued by the army after Bloody Sunday said soldiers have been attacked by nail bombs as a conflagration "- this claim has since been refuted.
While paratroopers involved in the Bloody Sunday shootings still remain anonymous, a Sergeant O, commander of Mortar Platoon in Bogside's second vehicle, told the BBC that the soldiers were under fire. "We looked for targets and dropped them," he said. "The mood between the guys was not a joy, but a good job."
In a second investigation in Bloody Sunday in 1998, led by Mark Saville, paratroopers were falsely accused of being Bogside victims of the armament to justify their shots. The investigation determined that none of the civilians killed represented an immediate threat. Sergeant O said he did not feel guilty when he presented the results of the innocence of the victims.
Saville noted that events at Bloody Sunday helped escalate the conflict in Northern Ireland and strengthen the hand of the Provisional IRA. It was a "disaster for the people of Northern Ireland," he added. The investigation confirmed that the soldiers "knowingly misrepresented the circumstances in which the arrests took place."
The 5,000-page Saville report revealed that Robert Ford, Commander of Northern Ireland Land Forces, visited Derry's protest month and wrote a confidential memo, stating that the only confrontation of a group known as Derry Young Hooligans is, you have shot selected ringleaders. He ordered the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment, known for its excessive use of force, to station in Derry.
"What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unwarranted and unjustifiable," former PM David Cameron said in an official apology in 2010. "The government is ultimately responsible for the behavior of our armed forced labor."
Since then, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has undermined his apology, claiming in March that killings by security forces are "not crimes." Liam Wray, whose brother Jim was shot twice and died on Bloody Sunday, said RTÉ radio Bradley's comments sounded "like a colonial governor of the past." Bradley has since apologized for her comments.
In January 2019, hundreds of people returned the steps of the 1972 march to the Guildhall in Derry, their original destination for the Bloody Sunday anniversary. They demanded that the men who gave the orders be held accountable, not just those who pulled the trigger.
While the families on Thursday welcomed the persecution of Soldier F as a historic achievement and confirmation of their long campaign, after 47 years many will feel that justice should have been done long ago.