Dramatic Scenes On And Off The Park
Earlier today, the Hoops fought back from two goals down at a rain drenched Celtic Park to snatch a late 4-3 victory against Aberdeen. Undoubtedly, this will have left many Aberdeen supporters feeling sick regarding what they witnessed in the last fifteen minutes of the match or so. The bad taste in their mouths will have been somewhat similar to that endured by the Celtic fans who travelled to Dingwall last weekend. However, whilst sport can do this to the supporters of any game or Club, it is sad to realise that the actions of a supposedly respectable body, such as the Police Force in Scotland, can leave a similarly sour taste in the mouth of the public.
And so, whilst an emphatic comeback culminating in a dramatic late winner from Georgios Samaras should be what today is remembered for, it is likely that the events involving the police and supporters prior to the match will live longer in the memories of many.
As a number of Celtic supporters gathered on the Gallowgate for a march in support of the Green Brigade, they were met with a couple of hundred police officers, between fifteen and twenty police vans, and a helicopter overhead. Upon the marchers having covered a short distance, their progress was halted by a line of police officers, who proceeded to kettle the group of a couple of hundred individuals, which included both the young and old. Age appeared to be of no consideration, as supporters were struck with batons, with some being thrown against walls or the ground beneath their feet before being arrested.
A fuller description of the events can be found in the following piece written by Angela Haggerty, who was in attendance as events unfolded earlier today – click here.
Now, the motto of Strathclyde Police is “Keeping People Safe”. With this in mind, one could presume that they felt the Celtic supporters gathering earlier today posed a threat to the safety of the Glaswegian public. This is, of course, somewhat farcical, but let’s stick with it for the sake of it for now.
So, what could this “fear” be based on? The last major incidence of violence involving Celtic supporters (other than the infamous “Boxing Day Riot” at Dundee – please excuse my sarcastic tone there) was that of the 1980 Scottish Cup Final, over three decades ago. Since then, incidences of football violence in Scotland have decreased dramatically, so we can, perhaps, rule that out as a potential “fear” for the police. And so, presuming that wasn’t the issue, what was?
According to those on the ground today, police officers were quoted as saying that the reason for their presence was the lack of an application to Glasgow City Council regarding the march. Therefore, fearing a breach of public order, they had to be there.
Now, maybe I’m being cynical here, and perhaps an application should have been made to the council, but if someone were to unofficially organise a march online protesting about, for example, pensions, I doubt Strathclyde Police would see the need for there to be approximately one officer to one marcher. The story regarding a phone call reporting “a large gathering” on the Gallowgate is also totally farcical, as it is simply impossible to believe the police did not know about this event prior to today, especially when they pay close attention to several websites and unofficial outlets online. By all accounts, many of the police officers were there in advance of most supporters’ arrival, no doubts at great cost to the taxpayer.
Every year, thousands march through the streets of Glasgow, as well many surrounding towns, as they participate in the innately divisive “Orange Walks”. Of late, we have also seen thousands of the Rangers supporters march on Hampden. And yet, ironically, the police presence at these events is, proportionally, no where near as extreme. Below are two images, one from a TRFC march, and another from today – spot the difference.
Fundamentally, nobody, regardless of who they are, or who they support, should have any presumption of guilt made against them purely because they are a football fan. To be a football fan does not make you a criminal. The tactics employed today by the police were both intimidatory and inflammatory, and they have only gone to worsen an increasingly volatile situation, when they should instead be doing all they can to defuse it. How can the Celtic supporters who travel to Celtic Park or any other Scottish stadia respect the police force that is meant to protect them, when they treat other members of our support with such disdain? In all honesty, I know I cannot, and I doubt I am the only one.
As I’ve highlighted before, I do not necessarily agree with everything the Green Brigade have done over the years. However, that is neither here nor there when it comes to such a basic issue as that of human rights. Simply because an individual describes themselves as an “ultra” does not mean they are of any more threat than any other supporter. The group have no history of violence and this must not be forgotten.
It is also critical to note that not all of the supporters in attendance today were affiliated with the Green Brigade. Most were simply there to show their support for their group, whilst a few others were passing through and were caught up in the going’s on. The protest was wholly peaceful. To discover a serious incident of violence within the Celtic support you must look back more than three decades ago, and this must not be forgotten either.
In Europe, the Celtic support is praised to the highest degree wherever it may go. Vast amounts of alcohol are consumed, and often the team loses, and yet this praise is almost continuous. Thousands upon thousands have travelled to more cities than I can mention, without disorder or trouble.
And so, why are large parts of our support vilified at every opportunity in Scotland? Perhaps the police believe that if they push the Green Brigade (and/or the Celtic support as a whole) far enough they will be able to force an uncharacteristic reaction which they could then use to justify their archaic treatment of football supporters in Scotland?
I’ll leave you to ponder that one.
One thing is clear though – this bullying has to stop. Now.
Please note: All photographs have been provided by “The Celtic Network” (TCN). I do not own them.