Police arrested four anti-fascists in Glasgow last Saturday (16th June) as a mob of around twenty or so Scottish Defence League (SDL) supporters staged a ‘protest’ in the city centre and harassed members of the Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign.
At the time of writing, what happened on the day is not yet completely clear. But the main sequence of events is as follows.
For several weeks prior to last Saturday the Glasgow Committee to Welcome Refugees was building support for a demonstration it was staging that day in protest at the eviction of asylum-seekers.
(Ypeople recently lost the contract to provide accommodation to asylum seekers in Glasgow. The contract has been awarded to Serco. As a result of the contract transfer, asylum-seekers whose claims have been refused are now at risk of eviction.)
In the week immediately before the demonstration the SDL, Casuals United and the BNP – all three of which overlap with one another – called on their supporters to mobilise against the event.
According to a post on Casuals United:
“Deranged Communists are doing a demo in Glasgow city centre tomorrow (Saturday) as they don’t want illegal immigrants to be deported. They couldn’t care less about these parasites being in our country, scrounging off us, and plotting to blow us up.”
“Some patriot groups will be countering them to show them what we think of their idiotic plan.”
According to a post on the Scottish page of the BNP website:
“There will be a demo by the Reds in Glasgow this Saturday to stop illegal immigrants getting deported from the UK. The UAF would have you believe all you need to do is not wash and not work and study until you’re 54 years old and the taxpayer will cover this.”
“On Saturday, 16th June, the BNP and Infidels will do a counter-demonstration against the UAF’s anti-deportation demonstration. If you are free, then please come and join us at 1.00pm ... We have people coming from all over the UK to attend, so please attend to show your support.”
A post on an anti-fascist website reports on what happened at the start of last Saturday’s demonstration:
“Fascists showed up as organisers were setting up for a rally (before the demonstration), and threatened a couple of pensioners sorting placards. They made several attempts to attack the demonstration, which resulted in police having to cordon off several areas of Glasgow city centre.”
As the rally following the demonstration was finishing in George Square, police moved in in to order to disperse the crowd, threatening to use public order legislation if people did not leave. This was when the first arrest took place.
Having cleared the square of demonstrators, police then allowed (in fact: chaperoned) the SDL into the square in order to stage a fifteen-minute counter-protest.
Still labouring under the illusion that the demonstration had been organised by Unite Against Fascism, their placards read “UAF support illegal immigrants”, “Protect our borders – report illegal immigrants now” and “Illegal immigrants and refugees – not welcome in Scotland”.
The SDLers then moved down to Buchanan Street and began harassing the Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign stall (the object of an attack by the SDL last year).
Police eventually arrived and moved on the SDL, effectively allowing them to march around the city centre with police protection. Another three anti-fascist protestors were arrested at this stage, before the police marched the SDL into a tube station for dispersal.
The SDL sees Saturday’s events as a victory. According to the Casuals United News Team (CUNT), run by the Casuals United Female Division:
“Just had news that the SDL demo in Glasgow was very successful. They took over the UAF stall/demo point, and they got their march through Glasgow. Well done to the lads and lasses who attended.”
But a crowd of around twenty is hardly a mass turnout – especially when you have promised that “we have people coming from all over the UK.” Nor did Saturday shoppers treat the SDLers with anything other than contempt.
In fact, the number of SDLers involved in last Saturday’s events underlines its continuing weakness in Scotland. It’s important to make sure the SDL stays that weak.
In addition to organising a defence campaign if any of those arrested are charged – at the time of writing this is unknown – the left needs to organise defence of its activities against what is hardening into a pattern of harassment by the SDL.