Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A personal view on Saturday's protests from Donald Graham

Well here it is, a dreich Saturday in Glasgow, but there is the Celtic game to look forward to, and I still do, despite all the negativity surrounding the team. Something else today though;  the match day routine, or at least for Saturday 3pm kick offs at home, of meeting up with my brother and some guys who I’ve been going to games with since the late Seventies, is going to be delayed , I am going to a demo. Now being a trade unionist and a political animal anyway, I’ve been to a few demos over the years but this one is different for me.   It’s to let the SNP government know that Celtic fans will not accept (I was going to write “will not stand” but that maybe wouldn’t be the case ) being criminalised by proposed new legislation.

We arrived at George Square about 12.15 being slightly worried that we wouldn’t get a turn out due to the weather and supporters having pre match routines;  plus my mate, ever the pessimist, whispering in my ear all the way up on the train 'if 50 turn up we will be lucky'.

I began to get more and more confident about a good turn out the nearer I got to George Square as I saw more and more fans in Celtic colours and a some cracking hoodies and t-shirts with the visually memorable FAC logo and slogans like “I am a football fan not a criminal” emblazoned across them (these are keepers, where can I get one?)

Even my mate was accepting that there was going to be more than 50 by the time we hit Queen Street and as we turned the corner at Greggs into George Square there they were over a thousand fans, perhaps nearer two, prepared to stand together and say YOU ARE NOT CRIMINALISING US.

We manoeuvred our way into the crowd to get a good view and hearing of the speakers (a little criticism here; because there was so many fans that the megaphone being used could have done with being a bit louder I’m sure some at the back wouldn’t have heard all the speeches). The crowd was a good cross-section of the Celtic support young and old, black and white, male and female, different nationalities and various religions and none, I thought to myself yes there going to have to criminalise us all.

There were speakers from the Green Brigade, the Celtic Trust, the Celtic Supporters Association and the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters Clubs, and even a spokesperson from the anti capitalist campers spoke to offer their solidarity and explain their reasons for being there. They all asked the question why is this new law needed; hardly any crimes committed at football these days, even the so called shame game was more about misbehaviour from Rangers players than anything from the fans;  plenty of current legislation to deal with sectarianism, racism and bigotry; is it just that as Christine Grahame stated, ‘to even things up’?

The point was made that our songs are not sectarian or racist. Speakers also asked why was the suggested behaviour only a crime when connected to football.  There were also suggestions that this bill may have more to do with the careers of the Alex Salmond, Frank Mulholland and the Strathclyde Chief Constable Stephen House.   The question was also asked about what happened to the statistics compiled on sectarian crime that have been mysteriously destroyed, yes the ones that show what the real problem is in our society.  The idea that fans are to blame  for domestic violence was also rubbished as statistics show that Christmas and New year are the worst time for domestic violence  - so do we criminalise Christmas? The Supporters Association pledged to support any Celtic fan that is wrongfully arrested under this new law and if it goes through that pledge will be part of the ongoing campaign - a campaign all the Supporters groups and fans attending pledged themselves to continue even if the Bill becomes law.

The meeting finished with loud cheering and applause for the speakers as they made it clear that this was ‘Just the beginning’ and a large number of fans headed up to the game, whilst some of us headed to continue our Saturday football routine (you know what I mean).

Well what next? There was a magnificent FAC banner display throughout Celtic Park before the Hibs game; there is an online petition that can be signed and you can get hold of your MSP, especially if they are SNP and let them know how you feel about the Bill. Well after Saturday I am up for the fight and so is my mate the pessimist.  We can stop this Bill if we can show the SNP how foolish they will look to push it through against the will of almost all football fans, churches, academics, and other political parties.  

FAC THE BILL and refuse to be criminalised for supporting your team. Join the fight.        

Donald Graham, Celtic Trust

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