Speeches from the FAC Rally 6/4/13

Published on Sunday 7th April, 2013 by Celtic Trust

for those of you who could not get there on the day

Chris McCann, Fans Against Criminalisation

Good afternoon and welcome along to an absolutely jam-packed George Square. George Square has long been a rallying point for protest movements in Scotland. From the rent and shipyard strikes, to the Poll Tax it has been the historic centre for popular revolt against injustice. Well today, with thousands of people stretching as far as the eye can see, I think we can say that the campaign against criminalisation has the backing of the entire Celtic support, and we can also safely say that Alex Salmond and Stephen House will be sitting up and they'll be taking note.  

 For those of you here today that don’t know our background, Fans Against Criminalisation is an umbrella group made up of the 5 main Celtic fan organisations – the Green Brigade, Celtic Trust, Celtic Supporters Association, Affiliation of Registered Celtic Supporters Clubs and the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters Clubs. We formed in October 2011 in response to the Offensive Behaviour at Football legislation that was then making its way through the Scottish Parliament.   At the time, we said that not only was the legislation unnecessary but also that it was wrong. It was so broad that even the Justice Minister admitted that people could be arrested for making the sign of the cross or singing a national anthem. And it was so narrowly focused on football fans that it treated us as second-class citizens and criminalised us just for supporting our teams.   Later in October 2011, we rallied in this very Square. That day, I stood not far from here and I said that Fans Against Criminalisation would provide Celtic fans with a voice to tell politicians, prosecutors and police that we wouldn’t let them give us a kicking. I said that if they wanted to criminalise us, we would fight them every step of the way.


For a time, we did just that. We rallied two thousand people in George Square in protest. On the day they forced through their anti-football law, we went to the Scottish Parliament and with nothing more than a just cause and a bag of t-shirts we embarrassed Alex Salmond and the SNP.   Regrettably since then, we’ve not done enough. Sure, we’ve been helping individual fans out and diligently collecting data we can use to show just how wrong the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is when it comes up for review. And like everyone else here, we’ve moaned about the constant filming of Celtic fans before, during and after matches. We’ve complained amongst ourselves about disproportionate policing and the mistreatment of fans.


But for too long we, as a campaign and as collective of fans, have let the government and police set the agenda and push their propaganda - we’ve let them claim that football fans are some sort of evil within Scottish society, that we’re termites to be fumigated, pests to be controlled. We’ve been too quiet as fans have been arrested and harassed. We’ve allowed a situation to develop where the police can brazenly attack a group of Celtic fans just for standing up against them.


Three weeks ago, only a matter of minutes from here on the Gallowgate, the Green Brigade held a protest march against police harassment. It was kettled and attacked by a mob of 200 baton-wielding police officers. 13 Celtic fans were arrested, and have been banned from attending matches.   This incident sparked a flame within many of us, a determination that no longer would we let our people be victimised and harassed, a determination that we won’t continue to let our people be arrested and attacked, a determination that this time we really are going to fight back, a determination that this time, we’re going to win.


Immediately after the events on the Gallowgate on the 16th of March, Fans Against Criminalisation reconvened and the response we’ve had since then has been overwhelming. Well wishes and expressions of support have flooded in from across the world. Football fans throughout Scotland, Britain and beyond have contacted us to offer their support and many of them will be displaying messages of solidarity with us at matches over the weekend.


Fans of other teams are also in attendance today, recognising that the criminalisation of football fans extends beyond club colours and affects everyone who watches Scotland’s national game. On behalf of Fans Against Criminalisation I’d like to welcome them here and thank them for putting their rivalries aside this lunchtime.   We also welcome each and every single one of you who’ve made the effort to come out on a cold day to stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellow fan. We know people have come from miles around to be here today.There are fans here who’ve travelled from Cyprus, Germany, Norway and Sweden, from Australia, Canada and Singapore.


There’s also tens of supporters clubs in attendance. From all across Glasgow and the West, right through the central belt and up and down the east coast, up to Wick in the north of Scotland and London in the south of England, and from the length and breadth of Ireland the response has been fantastic. Looking out from my vantage point here I can see thousands of fans united behind each other, and I can tell you, it’s truly an incredible sight.   I’d like to give a special welcome to a number of Celtic fans who unfortunately will not be joining us at Celtic Park later today. Some of them are friends of mine, and they’re among a growing number of Celtic fans who have been targeted by FoCUS and their colleagues within the Police Service of Scotland. They’ve been arrested on bogus charges and subsequently banned from football matches as part of their bail conditions.   Court dates are set for the end of the football season and trials are delayed before charges are eventually dropped or laughed out of court. The police hope that this will scunner them from the football. The police hope that they’ll hassle and harass these fans away from supporting the team they love.   But we’ve got a message for them today, and that message is that we won’t let the police scunner us. We won’t be hassled and harassed away from supporting the team we love and, here in George Square today, I’m delighted to say that the banned bhoys stand with us.


I’d also like to extend another special welcome. This time to a young fan who will be joining us at Celtic Park today. Like many charged over the past couple of years, he’s had to repeatedly travel to the north of Scotland to defend himself. Until yesterday that was, because yesterday he won a significant courtroom victory as a sheriff court judge dismissed the charges against him and branded the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act as a nonsense.


This young fan joined a growing band of supporters who’ve stood up against those that seek to criminalise us and who’ve won. And if we build on the fantastic start we’ve made today, if we continue to pull together as one, then our campaign can do the same.


Thank you.

 

Jeanette Findlay, FAC and Celtic Trust

It is absolutely fantastic to see so many of you here today, men, women, weans, teenagers – all part of the real Celtic family and all here to say no to police harassment and no to criminalisation of football fans.

Like Chris, I stood here 18 months ago – well not here, I was actually hanging off that statue over there – and I talked about the Offensive Behaviour Bill which is now an Act and into its second year of operation.  I talked about all the people whose interest it suited at the time – Alex Salmond, trying to get elected for a second term and thinking he would use us to get one over on the opposition;  Stephen House, then Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police – gone but not dearly departed – who was looking at having his budgets cut in a period of recession and who was thinking of climbing the greasy pole into the top job with the Police Service of Scotland:  He thought he would use us as well and it seems to have worked for him;  Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, new into the job and looking to show his gratitude to his political masters.

I also talked about how we predicted that many people – mostly young people – would be arrested, hassled, threatened, dragged through the courts and generally have their jobs, their studies and their lives disrupted.  I can’t say that I am happy to confirm that everything that FAC predicted and warned about has come true.  I wish we had been wrong but we were not – in fact it is worse than we predicted.

Even we would not have envisaged what Celtic fans – and fans of other clubs – have had to suffer over the past year.  There is not another group in society – and I am including criminal gangs and drug dealers – who are subjected to the same level of surveillance; who are searched, scrutinised, photographed; videoed, monitored, vilified, arrested, and generally subjected to the most appalling and vindictive harassment and for what?  Not for acts of violence or disorder or anything like that.  But for wearing a t-shirt they don’t like; displaying a banner they don’t find funny; singing a song that makes them uncomfortable; holding views they don’t agree with; singing hymns, making the sign of the cross?  And where are all the civil liberties groups, the trades unions, the great lovers of the progressive cause?  Well apart from a few notable exceptions, they have been very quiet.  It pains me as a life-long trade unionist and a socialist to have to say this, but it is the truth.

I said at the beginning how fantastic it is to see you all here and it is: gathered in huge numbers as a community; side by side in solidarity with each other.  How different it was three weeks ago, less than a mile from here, when a small group of Celtic supporters of all ages, gathered in a simple, peaceful protest showing solidarity with all of their fellow supporters who are currently banned from Celtic Park as part of bail conditions  or in what the PLC like to call ‘precautionary suspensions’.  The level of brutality and sheer naked aggression which was meted out to people that day, shames this police force, shames this government and shames this country.  What kind of country takes a law-abiding group of people and turns them into criminals?  What kind of legal system, takes young people who are interested in politics and makes them hate the police and despise politicians.  This is dangerous and all citizens, not just football fans, should be concerned.

But you have shown them here today:  if you try to beat us off the streets then we will keep coming back in bigger and bigger numbers until you don’t have enough truncheons and horses and dogs to keep us down, and you don’t have enough bodies to kettle and constrain us.  Yet terrible as it was, what happened three weeks ago was no more than a spike in the relentless day after day, week in week out, harassment and bullying which has now become part and parcel of being a football supporter.

That is why we all have to play our part in opposing this Act and opposing the police and criminal justice system in this country and to keep on doing so until the Act is removed from the statue books and the police are brought under control; made to get on with catching criminals and leave football fans alone.

For that reason our efforts can’t end here today.  When you get home tonight – whenever that might be, cause you might have some celebrating to do at quarter to five – think about what you can do to support this cause.

Do you have evidence about what happened in the Gallowgate three weeks ago?  Well go to the Celtic Trust website and you will find an online witness collection form.

Have you been charged under the Act?  Well contact FAC and give us all the details to strengthen our case when the Act comes up for Review.

Do you want the police force held to account for their actions three weeks ago?  Well go to the Trust website and you will find a template email which you can send to your MSP – all you need to do is fill in your postcode and a few simple details and emails will be sent to all your representatives in the Scottish Parliament.  Let’s bombard them day in and day out; let’s harass them the way they harass us; let’s make their lives as difficult as they have made ours and keep doing it till they stop.

Join us on our demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament on the 24th of April when we hand in a petition calling for an inquiry into what happened on the Gallowgate.  Fill in the online petition which will become live on the Scottish Parliament website very soon.

So I want to thank you all again for turning out here today and for all the other things you have done to show solidarity with each other. Most of you probably know by now that our request to the Council and to the Police to be allowed to go en masse and in good order and safety to Celtic Park today was turned down.  So can I ask you all to make your way to the game – or wherever else you may be going  - with your head held up and in the peaceful and friendly manner for which we are known and welcomed all round the world.  And remember this: supporting your team is not a crime – so let’s hear that belted out today when the teams come on the park, and let’s make sure in the coming weeks and months  that the same message is heard loud and clear by Alex Salmond and his government  and by Stephen House:  Supporting your team is not a crime.  Hail Hail!

 

Jeanette's speech can also be viewed at:

http://t.co/Ri8A0k1z6a

 

If anyone videoed any of the other speeches, can you please send them to us or upload them and send us a link?

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

Share this article:

Share with email
0 comments

Login to post a comment

 
 
Site by MALO MEDIA