WIDESPREAD criticism has been aimed at Police Scotland and public authorities in Scotland following following aggression from far right and Loyalist gatherings in George Square in Glasgow.
After the square was taken over by a menacing group claiming they were intent on defending statues in the public space, followed by intimidation of a peaceful protest held in support of asylum seekers, a large crowd gathered in George Square the following weekend —only to find themselves subject to crowd management tactics which were not used to disperse the far right and Loyalist mob the previous week.
In the end, protesters found themselves led away from the square and kettled (above)—in a move which flies in the face of the social distancing advice delivered by the Scottish Government on a daily basis.
Following the incident, Labour MSP James Kelly wrote to Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendran, Divisional Commander for Greater Glasgow, seeking clarification about the behaviour of officers and for her to look into the matter more closely.
“As I am sure you are aware, the protest in the square was organised in the square by several groups and trade unions in a peaceful manner opposing racism,” he wrote. “I have had reports from my constituents that officers were aggressive with peaceful protestors. I recognise the duty that Police Scotland has to maintain public order, but I don’t believe that there was a need to be so forceful with a group that were observing social distancing and were not demonstrating threatening behaviour. I am also concerned that Police Scotland did not properly engage with the stewards who were overseeing the event.
“It is incredibly concerning that Police Scotland rounded up peaceful protesters and then kettled a group which contained trade unionists, women, children and a priest. I am sure you will understand that with people rightly being concerned about their health during a pandemic, being forced into a n enclosed space where social distancing cannot be practised is incredibly unsettling. I do not understand why this was considered an appropriate course of action.”
Given the manner in which George Square was twice allowed to form a stage on which the intimidating behaviour of a group of far right and Loyalist protesters could play out, there is now deep concern as to why those in attendance at the ‘Glasgow Unite Against Fascism’ rally were subject to such treatment.
There was also criticism for the Scottish Police Federation, who in a statement conflated the far-right and Loyalist thuggery with the peaceful protests also held in the square—and dusted down the narrative of false equivalency so often used when this section of society displays their intolerance.
Seeking to place the protesters into the same category as Loyalists and the far right, Chair David Hamilton also intimated that ‘green’ was just as guilty as ‘blue’ despite the issue being a clear demonstration of far right and Loyalist thuggery being opposed by a diverse group of concerned Glasgow citizens.
“There is no moral high ground to be claimed,” Hamilton said. “Right or left; green or blue; Unionist or Nationalist; statue wrecker or statue protector, your side is as guilty as the other. There is no hierarchy of culpability. The sad reality is that there are too many opposing factions who need no excuse to use a protest as an opportunity to cause disorder.”
However, his failure to measure the mood of a city outraged by such scenes meant that his words left him open to outcry from many Glaswegians.
Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken, summed up the feelings among the public as she said: “To say peaceful asylum seekers and far-right thugs are as bad as each other is simply wrong. It’s the latter Glasgow needs our police to protect the city from.”
Anti-Irish racism ignored?
Of particular concern to the Irish community at a time when Scotland is more aware than ever of its problems with intolerance is the continued difficulty it has in being heard about the issue of anti-Irish racism.
Call It Out: The Campaign Against Anti-Catholic Bigotry and Anti-Irish Racism spoke to The Irish Voice about the need to face up to behaviour of a section of our society who now seem empowered to display their intolerance in such a fashion.
“Call it Out is very clear that the perpetrators of the horrific attacks on a peaceful demonstration by asylum-seekers in Glasgow are precisely the same people who have for decades attacked and intimidated the Irish/Irish Catholic community in Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland,” the spokesperson said. “The ramping up of their hate-filled conduct is a direct response to the fact that, since 2018, we as a community have organised to oppose them and to defend our own churches and people. The visceral response they have shown to having their supremacy challenged has now, to their shame, involved, an attack on a vulnerable and peaceable group of people from all parts of the world who have sought refuge here—as we did—calling them ‘Fenian b******s’!
“They see Glasgow’s civic square as belonging to them because, in their eyes, they are ‘the people.’ The failure of national and local government and other parts of civic society to address this poison at the heart of public life in Scotland has emboldened racists and fascists and, for that, they must take some responsibility.
“So we call on all decent people to stand up to racists and fascists but, to do so effectively you will have to acknowledge where their hatred is nurtured and organised. Scotland must abandon its comfort blanket that the only social problem they have is between two tribes of equal culpability who hate each other based on an imported enmity. These are your people, your responsibility and you must challenge them.”