When is a peaceful demo no longer peaceful?

Published on Wednesday 2nd November, 2011 by Celtic Trust

Jeanette Findlay on the George Square protest

George Square is Green and White

The demonstration organised by the Fans Against Criminalisation campaign against the Offensive Behaviour at Football Threatening Communications Act exceeded by far the greatest expectations of the organisers.  Typically the Celtic crowd in George Square on Saturday was around the 400 mark just prior to the 12.30 kick-off but it swelled to nearer 1500-2000 by the time the speakers climbed on to the base of the statue of Robert Burns  - my Granny Reilly must have been spinning in her grave at the thought of me near the statue of that 'old masonic whore-master' as she so colourfully referred to him.  This very large crowd (much larger than the 400-700 estimates given by the biased, sorry innumerate, press) was made up of men, women and children of all ages ie a typical Celtic crowd.  And like a typical Celtic crowd they cheered and they laughed and eventually, on the way back to Celtic Park for the Hibs game, they sang.  This was a peaceful and passionate demonstration which sent a clear and strong message to the Scottish Government that we were not going to allow our young people to be criminalised and all of us branded bigots just to advance the careers of Lord Advocates and Chief Constables, and to take the bad look off the real bigots in this country.  Speaker after speaker spelled out our reasoned opposition to this Bill and our determination to fight it to the end.


Croppies Lie Down...

All good so far, until we arrive at Celtic Park and then it was payback time!  In a breach of assurances given by the police to all the main supporters organisations some weeks before, a heavy and aggressive police presence was visited on the fans who occupy Section 111.  Both before the match kicked off and ten minutes before the end, they invaded that stand in a show of strength designed to let us all know - we can demonstrate as peacefully as we like but they are in control and they are going to take our right to protest and shove it right up to us.  Young people and women were pushed around and had their safety endangered as they attempted to pull one or two individuals who were alleged to have sung the wrong song.  This was nothing like the 'facilitation' role that we in the supporters' organisations have been assured is the main role of the police on match days.  Were it not for the cool heads of the Green Brigade and other fans keeping things calm then there could have been far more serious consequences to their action.

Today both the CSA and the Celtic Trust have met with representatives of Celtic and we will be meeting with the police in the next day or so.  But this has now moved way beyond an issue for football fans;  this was an organised attack on people who only a few hours before had been peacefully demonstrating and it was designed to send a message to all of us 'Croppies Lie Down'.  Every Celtic fan, and every democrat and every citizen who wants to live in a Scotland where the police are democratically accountable should be extremely concerned by these developments.  We in the Fans Against Criminalisation campaign will continue to oppose this Bill - we won't be doing any lying down unless it is on the London Road as an act of mass civil disobedience if that is what we are forced to do.

Reports of the outcomes of any meetings on this issue will be posted here.  In the meantime, we would like to encourage any fan who was personally affected by the police action to make a full complaint at their nearest police station.  We will be happy to offer advice and support if that is necessary.  We have collected a good deal of evidence regarding the police action on Saturday but if anyone wishes to send us any more in confidence then please do so.

And in answer to the question at the top of the page...when the police decide it does not suit their purpose.


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