To understand what happened on Saturday 20th June at George Square, we must take a look at the days leading up to it. On Wednesday 17th June there was a peaceful demonstration, organised by the No Evictions campaign in Glasgow’s George Square demanding humane treatment for people seeking asylum in this country. For all the progressive plaudits of politicians here in Scotland, we have people detained in hotels due to Covid19 and being fed food not fit for human consumption.
The demonstration was not organised by fringe extremists looking for a running battle, but an organised group with a track record of fighting for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. As is becoming somewhat tradition, there was a counter demonstration. That was organised by the National Defence League, formerly the Loyalist Scottish Defence League. They wanted to protect the cenotaph, but no-one at that refugee rights demo wanted to damage it. The No Evictions campaign demo was subsequently attacked, with screams of ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Fenian Bastards’.
Politicians here have a hard time facing up to the bigotry that plagues our city. They rarely call it by its name: Loyalism. These men ran riot that Wednesday, coming from every angle, attacking anti-racist campaigners and Trade Unionists. This violence was facilitated by the police. This is what happens in a city that enters crisis talks with the Orange Order. (Who, by the way, have refused to condemn the violence being carried out).
Then comes the statement from the Scottish Police Federation, “left-right, green-blue, statue-wrecker or statue-protector – your side is as bad as the other” a shocking equivocation but one that is all too prevalent in a Scotland that cannot face up to its Loyalist shame. Anti-racist campaigners are now apparently on par with the Fascist thugs who attack them. Welcome to Scotland.
Now to Saturday 20th June. A peaceful demonstration is taking place at George Square organised by trade unions and anti-racist activist groups. There was a large crowd, it was peaceful, and it was socially distanced for the most part. There was a group of around 20 ‘statue protectors’ on the other side of the Square. Our action had been a success; we had taken our city back.
The peaceful scenes of this demonstration were in stark contrast to the scenes on Wednesday when far-right loyalists charged at a group of refugees and activists. Yet, Police Scotland sought to incite a disturbance by kettling a large group of peaceful protesters like animals, whilst openly stating ‘we want to get the Green Brigade’. Fascists didn’t turn out in numbers like Wednesday, there were no ‘two opposing factions’ on Saturday. Police here want to divide us by tainting the Green Brigade as hooligans, as they have convinced themselves that football supporters are hijacking a cause, rather than believe that working class men and women have strong enough beliefs to take to the streets. No matter how they are treated for doing so. This was not an issue of ‘green vs blue’, but Police Scotland certainly sought to make it one.
On 18th June a statement was released by the Scottish Trade Union Congress stating, “Courts likewise should deny bail to those who are charged with aggravated public order offences.’’ Despite this being in response to fascist violence, and probably well-meaning, this helped facilitate excessive police action against anti-racist campaigners and trade unionists at Saturday’s demonstration. The time of Trade Unions would be better spent arguing for a defunding of the police instead of encouraging them to use arrest powers on working class people. We must build working class resistance to excessive policing in our city.
Trade Unions need to take this seriously and ramp up their action and support; anti-racism and anti-fascism is not a fringe left issue. We are entering a period of mass unemployment, where Unions cannot save jobs. We need to offer support in re-skilling and political education. We cannot allow more working-class men and women to be caught by the right. Any anti-fascist organisation or network cannot be abstract from people’s material realities. The fight for jobs and housing has to also be the forum for the anti-fascist struggle. Building trust and showing workers that they can take control of their own lives by building collective strength is the only way to undercut a growing divisive, racist and fascist rhetoric. It is up to us to ensure that these links are made and that we never give an inch to anything or anyone that undermines our collective class struggle.
The time has come to unite behind our common goal. From trade unionists to community organisers and football supporters – We will not be divided by police attempts to sow division within the anti-racist movement.