It’s not entirely about the new legislation, but about the way of executing it. Yesterday 3,000 people protested in Glasgow against the ways in which authorities try to eradicate sectarianism and bigotry from stadiums.
Echoes of the March police intervention at Gallowgate (near Celtic Park) are even louder than the incident itself. After 150 Celtic fans were aggressively herded for an hour as a result of their ‘illegal procession’, now it wasn’t hundreds, but thousands joining one more illegal procession.
On the first occasion fans were expressing solidarity with their colleagues who were banned from the ground recently, now it was also about freedom outside the stadium. No wonder Celtic was joined by fans of several other clubs from outside Glasgow at St. George’s Square.
“If you try to beat us off the street we will keep coming in back in bigger and bigger numbers until you have not enough truncheons and horses and dogs to keep us down and you don’t have enough bodies to kettle and constrain us.” said Jeanette Findlay of the Celtic Trust to some 3,000 people gathered.
Despite police demanding people to disperse and not move from the square together, fans went into the streets. Despite the disobedience, Strathclyde Police, actual recipients of the protest, commented the behavior of protesters as ‘delightful’. The rally was peaceful, people behaved very well and caused no major disturbance of the traffic.
The reason of recent tensions between fans and police in Scotland (though Glasgow mainly) is 2011’s legislation attempting to eradicate bigotry and sectarianism from the stands. The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill causes a lot of controversy, though, despite 83% conviction rate.
Police are given very loose guidelines as to how and against what they should intervene, resulting in many fans seeing their policy as heavy-handed and disproportionate. The numbers that filled the centre of Glasgow showed their support for football fans arrested or banned from football games in an embarrassing series of court cases and charges that have even left Scottish judges baffled. Sheriff Richard Davidson, when he cleared 19-year-old Dion McLeish of any wrongdoing when he sang a song in tribute to IRA hunger strikers at a Dundee v Celtic game, said: “In this context there might be a problem with Flower of Scotland. The word ‘mince’ comes to mind.”