Tuesday, 10 December 2013

FAC Statement

Fans Against Criminalisation have noted the statement released by Celtic yesterday and the media coverage of the events of Friday night at Fir Park.  All of the organisations associated with this campaign (Celtic Supporters' Association, Celtic Trust, Green Brigade, Affiliation of Registered CSCs and Association of Irish CSCs) condemn wanton acts of vandalism and have no objection to those responsible, if identified and after a fair and transparent investigation, being suitably disciplined.  There are stadium regulations and laws which deal with such actions and our campaign is not against those laws.  We wish to make it clear that what happened on Friday has absolutely nothing to do with our campaign against the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act which is a campaign against the criminalisation of free speech and political expression.  We note attempts by the media to conflate the issues of vandalism with legitimate protest and we are confident that fair-minded people will see that for what it is.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Update – Tuesday 19th November

It is now 13 days since Celtic played Ajax in Amsterdam. It was a trip many Celtic supporters had been looking forward to for a variety of reasons since the draw was made. It is now a journey many wished they hadn’t made.

What happened between 5pm and 6pm in and around Damstraat and the National Monument in Dam Square will stay long in the memory of those who were there. Football fans are used to strong policing. They are used to being ordered around and treated as second class citizens. They are used to unjust laws applicable to only those who follow “our national game”.

What we are not used to however is the police brutality which occurred in that hour and the injustice of the imprisonment, assault and continued detention of fans whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ten Celtic fans still face charges. The exact nature of those charges is still unclear even 13 days later.

Those charged have been charged with throwing a bottle later changed to throwing a green can. They did neither.

They have been identified as having red hair in court, subsequently changed to spiky blonde hair. The accused in question has neither.

They have been accused of being so drunk that they were oblivious to any stimuli. The accused in question is very much aware of every second of the brutal assault that was launched on him both in Dam Square and then out of sight of any cameras in a police van. Oblivion to pain and stimuli would have been very welcome.

Two fans, Andy Vance and Padraig Mullan have been held since that night. They remain in prison both still suffering from their injuries and one who has still not been allowed to wear his own clothes. Both vehemently protest their innocence but still they are held. Another eight fans face charges, four on Thursday and another three in January.

A remarkable campaign has been launched aimed at securing their release and the freedom of their co-accused. The campaign began despite initial media reports of “Celtic Fans Rioting” and the levels of police injury. The campaign has managed to force a re-examination of the events of Dam Square both in Holland and somewhat more reluctantly in Scotland. The campaign has also managed to report the dozens of injuries suffered by Celtic fans and the levels of police brutality they faced. The fear people described by fans with, no means of escape, is chilling: men, young and old, women and children.

To date the following activities have been undertaken or are being undertaken by a variety of Celtic fans and organisations:
  • ·        Contact made with the families to offer them support and reassurance
  • ·        Video evidence has been collated and analysed and this continues
  • ·        Legal and translation advice has been given
  • ·   Complaints have been processed and passed on to Celtic FC who is employing a lawyer in Amsterdam to examine them
  • ·     Media work in the Netherlands and to a more limited extent (for obvious reasons!) in Scotland has been done
  • ·  Letters have been written to the Dutch Embassy, to the Mayor of Amsterdam, to the Chief of the Dutch Police
  • ·  Protests have been held outside the Dutch Embassies in Dublin and London and one is now planned for New York
  • ·   A Legal Defence Fund was set up and is currently being supported by supporters all over the world – this continues alongside local initiatives by CSCs and forums etc

On Thursday November 21 at 13:30, at Parnassusweg 220, Amsterdam. Celtic fans will begin the next steps to achieve justice for our supporters and to hold the police and authorities to account. We wish the full story of what happened in Dam Square to be told not just in Holland but in Scotland too. We will be asking for the immediate release of Padraig Mullan and Andy Vance and the dropping of charges against all of the accused fans.

We will then continue our campaign to ask why the Amsterdam police force unleashed a wave of brutality on our supporters as confirmed by the deluge of statements received by the #DamJustice campaign and by Celtic FC.

We ask that Celtic supporters continue to support the #DamJustice campaign with their customary magnificent backing. 

If you want to help us with the  bucket collection at the Aberdeen game on Saturday 23rd November please email dambhoys8@yahoo.co.uk for details.  We need a lorryload of bucketeers!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Ponsonby's triumph and Mulholland's shame

Yesterday was in interesting news day.  We had the publication of the statistics for charges/convictions under the Offensive Behaviour Act and on Religiously Aggravated Crimes in Scotland for 2012-13.  STV news gave the issue a 2nd top billing on the 6pm news, the justification for which, when the interview with the Lord Advocate came on, became immediately apparent.

By now most people will know that, Bernard Ponsonby the veteran Scottish newsman put the following question to the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland:

BP:   'So-called political chanting falls foul of this law?'
Lord Advocate: 'Of course it does yes, as I understand it'.

Ponsonby follows this up by asking about 'Irish Republican Identity' and asks:

BP 'An Irish Republican identity is potentially criminal under the Act?'
Lord Advocate:'Potentially criminal under this Act, yes'

This comment is extremely important and congratulations to Bernard Ponsonby for asking the question when other, lesser, journalists would not.  It is not that this was an utterly mad comment from Frank Mulholland that he must feel like a complete clown for saying - although it was and he must.  Neither is it that you could actually be arrested for having 'an Irish Republican identity' whatever that might mean, because quite clearly you could not be arrested, or charged or convicted for having any kind of ethnic or political identity.

The really important thing about it, whether or not any Scottish citizen, journalist or political commentator chooses to acknowledge it, is that it is an open admission (probably of an extremely common albeit almost subconscious mind-set) that there is something dangerous or wrong or potentially criminal to be Irish in Scotland or to believe in a united Ireland.

If you were to replace the word 'Irish' with any other nationality, the question would have been treated with a bemused look I would suggest.  If you were to change the word 'republican' with a description of any other political position, then a similar response would have been forthcoming.  It is only those two words - that ethnic identity and that political position - which almost without thinking, elicits concern, suspicion and negativity from many Scots; certainly from the police and from many part of government and other institutions.

This brings us back to the Act.  This Act, very clearly, was never about sectarianism; because, quite rightly,  we already had laws to cover that and to cover other forms of bigotry and racism.  This was, and still is, about trying to extend the term bigot or hate crime to the expression by Celtic fans of republican views or (except in a very sanitised, commercially-exploitable way) their Irish identity, should they as individuals, or as a group choose to do so.

For that reason it has not worked, because much as they would love to be able to do so, the government simply, in a modern, European country, cannot criminalise ethnicity or political ideology.

So all that has happened, and their own statistics show this, is that those people who could have been convicted under the Section 74 offences (justifiably), have instead been convicted under the new Act.  Indeed, the Celtic Trust was told by McAllister of the FoCuS group that the police were instructed by the Crown Office to use the new Act, so that is what they have done.

However, despite their best efforts to get Celtic fans convicted of singing Irish republican songs, the Sheriffs have, to their credit, refused to do it. Not satisfied with this, the Crown Office under Mr Mulholland (with Alex Salmond working him from the back like a ventriloquist) is appealing two of these Not Guilty verdicts.  You may be interested to know that appeals are very, very expensive processes and that the Crown Office usually appeals one or two cases a year and usually in case of very serious crimes such as murder or rape.  Yet they have two appeals under way right now because the Sheriffs had the temerity not to convict young boys for singing the Roll of Honour.

So, well done Bernard Ponsonby but shame on you Frank Mulholland.  You are a disgrace to your office and if you are remembered at all, it will be as the most craven Lord Advocate ever to have held the post.

Friday, 14 June 2013

New Offensive Behaviour Statistics released today - embarrassing flop for the Government

The Crown Office under the Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and the Scottish Government represented by Roseanna Cunningham have released the statistics for the first full year of the operation of the Offensive Behaviour at Football: Threatening Communication Act 2012 tomorrow (Friday 14 June 2013).  For some weeks now they have been making robust claims that these statistics will show that the Act is working. 

We are currently producing a detailed analysis of the statistics which are far from impressive in supporting the case for the continuation of this piece of legislation.  However, we can say already that all that has effectively happened is that there is a fall in those convicted under the Religiously Aggravated Offences (Section 74) and an almost equal rise in those convicted under the Offensive Behaviour Act.  Not much return on the £1.8 million pounds allocated to the Football Coordination Unit Scotland who police this Act.

In addition to this, what the statistics will never tell us, but which we as football supporters are only too aware of, is the following:
  • The number of young people with no previous criminal record or activity who have come into contact with the police as a result of this Act
  • The smaller number of young people who have endured 3 or more trips to courts in all parts of Scotland only to have the charges dropped by the Crown or to be found Not Guilty
  • The number of young people who have had their details taken unlawfully by the police
  • The number of football fans of all ages who have to run the gauntlet of police officers in order to attend football matches which are entirely devoid of any crowd trouble and have been for decades.
  •  The number of football fans of all ages who are photographed, videoed, monitored and intimidated by the Football Co-ordination Unit Scotland, the recipient of £1.8 million of government funding, all spent on harassing private citizens because they happen to be football fans.

This is the human cost of the Offensive Behaviour Act however, a press conference will be held in Glasgow next week in which we will give a detailed analysis of the figures produced by the government as well as the stories behind the statistics, which illustrate how this Act has produced a style of policing about which all citizens should be concerned.

Leading lawyer Paul Kavanagh, of Gildeas Ltd said today:

There is an old saying lies, damn lies and then statistics.

While every right minded individual would agree that there is no place in Scotland for bigotry of any kind whether by race, colour or religion the success of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication 2012 introduced by the current administration raise interesting questions.

87 convictions, how many arrested? How many proceeded to trial? How many pled guilty without legal representation or advice? How many with no previous experience of the judicial system? What has been the cost of implementing the act, policing it etc?

How do we measure success? Do we measure it with regard the number of convictions? Do we measure it with regard the huge number of young football fans forced by police unlawfully to give them their personal details? Do we measure it by the decreasing number of football fans attending games or do we eventually measure it by taking a poll of young football fans and their voting intentions at next year’s referendum and whether they will vote for independence?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Investigation into police interference in FAC parliamentary lobby continues

A small number of representatives of Fans Against Criminalisation visited the Scottish Parliament in April.  A few days before departure one of the organisers was phoned at work by the police to ask what the arrangements were for the visit.  On the morning of the visit, the group were approached in George Square by two uniformed officers just prior to departure to Edinburgh and told 'we will wait for you coming back'.  At the Parliament itself the group were met by 2 officers as they left their coach and a further 4 or 5 officers outside the door of the parliament who were clearly waiting for them.  We are advised by MSPs that this is an unusually high police presence even when there are groups of citizens visiting Parliament.

This follows on a very heavy police and security presence at our last visit to the Scottish Parliament on the day the Offensive Behaviour Bill became an Act.

Siobhán McMahon MSP, who invited us to Holyrood in April, met yesterday with the Head of Security in the Parliament, and asked for an explanation for the police presence both inside and outside the building and the heavier than normal security.  The reply?  She was told that these arrangements were in place because the Police Service of Scotland has specifically requested them.  Further evidence, if any were needed, that the the police in this country have a very specific and negative agenda in relation to Celtic fans and their organisations in general and against Fans Against Criminalisation in particular.

Superintendent Andy Bates in response to a letter from Siobhán McMahon asking about the behaviour of his two officers in George Square, tried to imply that it is normal practice to approach relatively small groups in the Square and ask if they are 'alright'.  Leaving aside the fact that this is utter nonsense, it is now becoming very common for individuals associated with this campaign to be approached in a variety of circumstances - in the street on a Friday night; in a pub watching a match, travelling in Europe, attending bedroom tax rallies - to be approached by officers to ask if they are 'alright'.  Is it just us, or does that seem odd to you?

We have been repeatedly told over the last couple of months that the Crown Office is going to publish statistics which will show us that the Act is working.  We look forward to seeing those, although if the ones already released under question by the tireless Ms McMahon are anything to go by, they will have a hard job using those to justify this level of intrusion into the entirely legitimate, lawful and democratic activities of private citizens....even if they are Celtic supporters!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Open Letter to Superintendent McAllister of Football Coordination Unit Scotland

Fans Against Criminalisation

c/o Celtic Trust
PO Box 2066
Glasgow G32 2AX

Superintendent Stephen McAllister
Football Coordination Unit Scotland
Police Service of Scotland
9 May 2013

Dear Superintendent McAllister

We write to draw your attention to a possible infringement of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) 2012 Act.  You may well have seen press reports of an unpleasant incident which took place in a bar in Edinburgh on the evening of Wednesday 1st May 2013.  The incident involved a person who was clearly under the influence of alcohol being extremely abusive to two other persons who were in the bar at the same time.  We understand that the aggressor and the victims were both members of opposing organisations, cultural or political groups you might say, who have very deep-seated antipathies to one another and who regularly engage in slanging matches in public, often to the deep distress of ordinary members of the public.

You may also be aware that on the evening in question there was a Champions’ League fixture between Barcelona FC and Bayern Munich which was being shown live on television.  Indeed we are also led to believe that the game in question was being shown in the venue at which the aforementioned verbal attack took place. 

We are sure that you are very familiar with the provisions of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 – given that your Unit has been funded to the tune of £1.8 million over the last two years it would be rather remiss of you if you were not.  However, at the risk of teaching our granny to suck eggs, we refer you to Section 1 of the Act which states that:

A person commits an offence if, in relation to a regulated football match—
(a) the person engages in behaviour of a kind described in subsection (2), and
(b) the behaviour—
(i) is likely to incite public disorder, or
(ii) would be likely to incite public disorder.’

Section 1(2)e of the Act, indicates that the behaviour referred to could be, among other things:

‘other behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive.’

Section 2(3) of the Act further states:

The references in subsection (2)(a) and (b) to a regulated football match include a reference to any place (other than domestic premises) at which such a match is televised; and, in the case of such a place, the references in subsection (2)(a) and (b) to the ground where the regulated football match is being held are to be taken to be references to that place.’

In all the circumstances, it would appear to us, that the behaviour to which we wish to draw your attention, could clearly be construed as ‘behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive’; it took place while a regulated football match was being shown and therefore meets the terms of Section 2(3) as outlined above; and, under Section 1b(ii), outlined above, ‘would be likely to incite public disorder’.  Heaven forfend, if large members of their respective organisations had been present, an almighty rammy could have ensued!

We are unaware if any of your officers were present at the incident but we hope not as, by their own evidence in courts up and down the country, they are known to be rather sensitive by nature and very likely to be offended by events such as those described here.

If you require further details of the incident you will find it at this internet link:

We look forward to hearing that you are pursuing Ms Cunningham with all your newly acquired powers and that her case will make its way through the judicial system with the same degree of inconvenience to her as young football fans suffer on a regular basis.  We are not aware that you can impose a public house banning order on anyone but it would seem to be a good idea in cases like this.  Can we suggest that you consult with someone in the Scottish Government about adding this in to the legislation?  You could have a chat with the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs for instance?  Then again, perhaps not...

We look forward to your early response to our comments on this very serious matter.

Yours sincerely

(original signed on behalf of the organising committee of FAC)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

3rd report from Holyrood: this time Paul tells it as he saw it

This was the first time I had ever got involved in this type of activity. I got involved as I firmly believe the Act was totally unnecessary and brought into Law for no other reason than to 'even up' arrest figures. To me the view is self evident, and nothing I heard from the SNP MSPs that we met on the day changed it.

The day started off with the group being met by two of Strathclyde's finest in George Square who informed everyone, very calmly, that they knew who we were,where we were oing, and indeed, when we were coming back. Well done Sherlock...you can obviously read a Twitter feed! This ludicrous and pathetic attempt at some sort of Plod intimidation was not lost on the group and I sensed it only increased our determination to have this Act overturned.
When we arrived at Holyrood, there they were again. Watching every move we made as we made our way inside. Everyone I talked to within the group kept asking, 'what do they expect us to do?' No one had any idea!
We then watched the Justice Committee, by CCTV, debate whether a review of the Act should be brought forward/  entually, the Committee decided to write to the Chief Constable, the Lord Advocate and the Scottish Police Authority and then review the issue further. My abiding memory of the discussion was the SNP members trying to disassociate the kettling of the Green Brigade from the Act and its review. Incredible! Complete nonsense!
After this was over we had the pleasure of speaking with SNP MSPs John Mason and James Dornan. Apparently the latter is a Celtic fan.
Could they give us arrest figures? - No
Could they tell us how this Act reduces anti Irish racism? - No
Could they define sectarianism? - No
Could they tell us how the Act helps reduce sectarianism? - No
Could they explain why fans were being arrested coming off a
Holiday flight? - No
Could they tell us how this Act would help to stop the recent attacks
on Neil Lennon? - No
..and so on.
Never I have seen two gentlemen as uncomfortable as Messer's Mason and Dornan.
After one of the FAC members told everyone of his experience of having the Police show up at his door at 6am to arrest him for swearing I detected a change in attitude from the SNP MSPs.
Indeed at the end of the meeting Mr Mason said he would support the review being brought forward.
My impression is that they know the game is up and are looking for a way out to save face. If we keep up the pressure, I am convinced the Act will be overturned and overturned soon.
It is clear we have the support of many MSPs and it was good to hear Johann Lamont speak and give us her support.
I would encourage all fans to support the FAC in any way they can.Victory is not far away!

Second report from Holyrood: an optimistic view from Fran

Fans Against Criminalisation organised a visit to Holyrood yesterday to coincide with the meeting of the Justice Committee, regarding the effectiveness of the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications Act, since its introduction in January 2012.

Before we’d even left Glasgow, we received a ‘friendly’ visit from the Police to advise that they were aware of our plans, and that they would be waiting for us upon our return to Glasgow.

When we arrived at Holyrood I became aware of the high police presence but didn’t think this was unusual as we were in the surroundings of the Parliament. Once we got inside the building though, we were advised by Siobhan McMahon that the police presence was virtually unheard of.

We were then taken through to a room so we could watch the Justice Committee’s discussion on the bill. During this discussion opposition MSPs called for the review of the Bill, currently scheduled for 2015, to be brought forward due to concerns raised by the public of heavy handed policing and disproportionate targeting of football fans.

After watching the meeting, we were then joined by 2 SNP MSPs, James Dornan and John Mason, and a number of opposition MSPs. A discussion took place on how the Bill is needlessly criminalising football fans and why it has to be reviewed at the earliest opportunity. As to be expected, the majority of the questions and points were directed at the SNP MSPs.

It soon became clear that even the SNP MSPs were confused regarding the Bill as they contradicted each other on why the bill was introduced. Confusion seems to be a common theme regarding the Bill and is constant across fans, the police and politicians. This indicates that the Bill needs to be reviewed at the earliest opportunity.

As the discussion progressed, James Dornan and John Mason became increasingly uncomfortable as the Celtic fans present aired their viewpoints on why the Bill is completely unnecessary and demanded that it be reviewed as soon as possible.

John Mason conceded that he agreed that the review date needed to be brought forward and stated that he would be willing to say this publically.

The pressure exerted on politicians since the events on March 16 is causing the SNP cause for concern. They are now aware that the depth of feeling on the issue from the Celtic support is going to cost them votes. The SNP’s current position that the Bill will only be reviewed in 2015 will become untenable as long as we keep up the pressure.

Yesterday’s meeting was very productive and has strengthened my feelings that we are going to be able to get the Bill scrapped.

First of a series of reports from Holyrood - here Martin gives his take on the day

On Tuesday, I attended the Scottish Parliament with other members of Fans Against Criminalisation. This trip to Edinburgh coincided with the day that the justice committee were due to discuss the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act - or the 'anti-football act' as it's become known to some.
This was my second trip to the Parliament in recent years, the first being with FAC in December 2011. The purpose of that trip was to voice our displeasure at this bill as we believed it unfairly criminalised football fans, and felt that Celtic fans in particular would suffer from this. As we all know, our fears have been realised; and then some.

As a result, I wasn't really sure what to expect this time around. However, I have to say I am feeling a lot more optimistic now. As the two SNP MSP's answered questions and got involved in a lively debate with FAC members both young and old(er), I was taken aback and encouraged at how this campaign seems to be effecting them. They looked extremely uneasy, they contradicted one another and on occasion, didn't make much sense. It was quite intriguing watching them shift uncomfortably as articulate working class men and women pressurised them in a calm manner over this poorly-scribbled piece of legislation.

They were made aware, in no uncertain terms, that we will continue to fight this and it is imperative that we, the Celtic support, do just that until this Act is thrown out.

Here the FAC report into the policing of the Green Brigade corteo on 16/3/13 (based on witness statements collected by FAC) is handed over to the Shadow Justice Secretary, Lewis Macdonald MSP.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

FAC goes to Hollyrood!


Details for the protest at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 23rd April 2013

Transport arrangements

Transport has been organised for those who want to take part in the protest at the
Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 23rd April 2013.

A bus will leave from George Square at 9am that day and will return shortly after
1pm. The protest will take place partly outside and then we will be invited inside
by opposition MSPs who are opposed to the Act, for some discussions.

We intend to present a report based on witness statements from people who were
present in the Gallowgate on 16th of March.

If you wish to travel with us on the day could you please email FAC at fansagainstcriminalisation@gmail.com by Friday of this week. Also, if you are
from other parts of the country and intend to make your own way to Edinburgh,
 could you let us know so that we can have a reasonable idea of how many are
intending to take part in the protest.

Please circulate these details as widely as possible.

Unity is strength!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Rally Podcast and email campaign

Thanks to the efforts of the Carluke Shamrock CSC we now have a recording of all the speakers at the massively successful FAC rally on Saturday 6th April 2013.

For all those who couldn't make it on the day, and for all those who couldn't hear it, you now have the chance to listen again!

For those of you in a hurry, the speeches start about 21 minutes in!


You will hear Jeanette Findlay referring to a template email which you can send to  your MSP asking for an inquiry into the police action in the Gallowgate on 16th March.  The automated system is up and running so please go to:


fill in your postcode and your address and emails will be sent to all your MSPs.  Get your family, your friends and workmates to do it too!

Lets harass them the way they harass us!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Jeanette Findlay speech at FAC rally, George Square, 6 April

It is absolutely fantastic to see so many of you here today, men, women, weans, teenagers – all part of the real Celtic family and all here to say no to police harassment and no to criminalisation of football fans.

I stood here 18 months ago – well not here, I was actually hanging off that statue over there – and I talked about the Offensive Behaviour Bill which is now an Act and into its second year of operation.  I talked about all the people whose interest it suited at the time – Alex Salmond, trying to get elected for a second term and thinking he would use us to get one over on the opposition;  Stephen House, then Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police – gone but not dearly departed – who was looking at having his budgets cut in a period of recession and who was thinking of climbing the greasy pole into the top job with the Police Service of Scotland:  He thought he would use us as well and it seems to have worked for him;  Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, new into the job and looking to show his gratitude to his political masters.

I also talked about how we predicted that many people – mostly young people – would be arrested, hassled, threatened, dragged through the courts and generally have their jobs, their studies and their lives disrupted.  I can’t say that I am happy to confirm that everything that FAC predicted and warned about has come true.  I wish we had been wrong but we were not – in fact it is worse than we predicted.

Even we would not have envisaged what Celtic fans – and fans of other clubs – have had to suffer over the past year.  There is not another group in society – and I am including criminal gangs and drug dealers – who are subjected to the same level of surveillance; who are searched, scrutinised, photographed; videoed, monitored, vilified, arrested, and generally subjected to the most appalling and vindictive harassment and for what?  Not for acts of violence or disorder or anything like that.  But for wearing a t-shirt they don’t like; displaying a banner they don’t find funny; singing a song that makes them uncomfortable; holding views they don’t agree with; singing hymns, making the sign of the cross?  And where are all the civil liberties groups, the trades unions, the great lovers of the progressive cause?  Well apart from a few notable exceptions, they have been very quiet.  It pains me as a life-long trade unionist and a socialist to have to say this, but it is the truth.

I said at the beginning how fantastic it is to see you all here and it is: gathered in huge numbers as a community; side by side in solidarity with each other.  How different it was three weeks ago, less than a mile from here, when a small group of Celtic supporters of all ages, gathered in a simple, peaceful protest showing solidarity with all of their fellow supporters who are currently banned from Celtic Park as part of bail conditions  or in what the PLC like to call ‘precautionary suspensions’.  The level of brutality and sheer naked aggression which was meted out to people that day, shames this police force, shames this government and shames this country.  What kind of country takes a law-abiding group of people and turns them into criminals?  What kind of legal system, takes young people who are interested in politics and makes them hate the police and despise politicians.  This is dangerous and all citizens, not just football fans, should be concerned.

But you have shown them here today:  if you try to beat us off the streets then we will keep coming back in bigger and bigger numbers until you don’t have enough truncheons and horses and dogs to keep us down, and you don’t have enough bodies to kettle and constrain us.  Yet terrible as it was, what happened three weeks ago was no more than a spike in the relentless day after day, week in week out, harassment and bullying which has now become part and parcel of being a football supporter.
That is why we all have to play our part in opposing this Act and opposing the police and criminal justice system in this country and to keep on doing so until the Act is removed from the statue books and the police are brought under control; made to get on with catching criminals and leave football fans alone.

For that reason our efforts can’t end here today.  When you get home tonight – whenever that might be, cause you might have some celebrating to do at quarter to five – think about what you can do to support this cause.

Do you have evidence about what happened in the Gallowgate three weeks ago?  Well go to the Celtic Trust website and you will find an online witness collection form.
Have you been charged under the Act?  Well contact FAC and give us all the details to strengthen our case when the Act comes up for Review.

Do you want the police force held to account for their actions three weeks ago?  Well go to the Trust website and you will find a template email which you can send to your MSP – all you need to do is fill in your postcode and a few simple details and emails will be sent to all your representatives in the Scottish Parliament.  Let’s bombard them day in and day out; let’s harass them the way they harass us; let’s make their lives as difficult as they have made ours and keep doing it till they stop.

Join us on our demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament on the 24th of April when we hand in a petition calling for an inquiry into what happened on the Gallowgate.  Fill in the online petition which will become live on the Scottish Parliament website very soon.

So I want to thank you all again for turning out here today and for all the other things you have done to show solidarity with each other. Most of you probably know by now that our request to the Council and to the Police to be allowed to go en masse and in good order and safety to Celtic Park today was turned down.  So can I ask you all to make your way to the game – or wherever else you may be going  - with your head held up and in the peaceful and friendly manner for which we are known and welcomed all round the world.  

And remember this: supporting your team is not a crime – so let’s hear that belted out today when the teams come on the park, and let’s make sure in the coming weeks and months  that the same message is heard loud and clear by Alex Salmond and his government  and by Stephen House:  Supporting your team is not a crime.  Hail Hail!

Chris McCann speech at Fans Against Criminalisation rally, George Square, 6 April

Good afternoon and welcome along to an absolutely jam-packed George Square. George Square has long been a rallying point for protest movements in Scotland. From the rent and shipyard strikes, to the Poll Tax it has been the historic centre for popular revolt against injustice. Well today, with thousands of people stretching as far as the eye can see, I think we can say that the campaign against criminalisation has the backing of the entire Celtic support, and we can also safely say that Alex Salmond and Stephen House will be sitting up and they'll be taking note.

For those of you here today that don’t know our background, Fans Against Criminalisation is an umbrella group made up of the 5 main Celtic fan organisations – the Green Brigade, Celtic Trust, Celtic Supporters Association, Affiliation of Registered Celtic Supporters Clubs and the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters Clubs. We formed in October 2011 in response to the Offensive Behaviour at Football legislation that was then making its way through the Scottish Parliament.

At the time, we said that not only was the legislation unnecessary but also that it was wrong. It was so broad that even the Justice Minister admitted that people could be arrested for making the sign of the cross or singing a national anthem. And it was so narrowly focused on football fans that it treated us as second-class citizens and criminalised us just for supporting our teams.

Later in October 2011, we rallied in this very Square. That day, I stood not far from here and I said that Fans Against Criminalisation would provide Celtic fans with a voice to tell politicians, prosecutors and police that we wouldn’t let them give us a kicking. I said that if they wanted to criminalise us, we would fight them every step of the way.

For a time, we did just that. We rallied two thousand people in George Square in protest. On the day they forced through their anti-football law, we went to the Scottish Parliament and with nothing more than a just cause and a bag of t-shirts we embarrassed Alex Salmond and the SNP.

Regrettably since then, we’ve not done enough. Sure, we’ve been helping individual fans out and diligently collecting data we can use to show just how wrong the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is when it comes up for review. And like everyone else here, we’ve moaned about the constant filming of Celtic fans before, during and after matches. We’ve complained amongst ourselves about disproportionate policing and the mistreatment of fans.

But for too long we, as a campaign and as collective of fans, have let the government and police set the agenda and push their propaganda - we’ve let them claim that football fans are some sort of evil within Scottish society, that we’re termites to be fumigated, pests to be controlled. We’ve been too quiet as fans have been arrested and harassed. We’ve allowed a situation to develop where the police can brazenly attack a group of Celtic fans just for standing up against them.

Three weeks ago, only a matter of minutes from here on the Gallowgate, the Green Brigade held a protest march against police harassment. It was kettled and attacked by a mob of 200 baton-wielding police officers. 13 Celtic fans were arrested, and have been banned from attending matches.

This incident sparked a flame within many of us, a determination that no longer would we let our people be victimised and harassed, a determination that we won’t continue to let our people be arrested and attacked, a determination that this time we really are going to fight back, a determination that this time, we’re going to win.

Immediately after the events on the Gallowgate on the 16th of March, Fans Against Criminalisation reconvened and the response we’ve had since then has been overwhelming. Well wishes and expressions of support have flooded in from across the world. Football fans throughout Scotland, Britain and beyond have contacted us to offer their support and many of them will be displaying messages of solidarity with us at matches over the weekend.

Fans of other teams are also in attendance today, recognising that the criminalisation of football fans extends beyond club colours and affects everyone who watches Scotland’s national game. On behalf of Fans Against Criminalisation I’d like to welcome them here and thank them for putting their rivalries aside this lunchtime.

We also welcome each and every single one of you who’ve made the effort to come out on a cold day to stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellow fan. We know people have come from miles around to be here today.There are fans here who’ve travelled from Cyprus, Germany, Norway and Sweden, from Australia, Canada and Singapore. 

There’s also tens of supporters clubs in attendance. From all across Glasgow and the West, right through the central belt and up and down the east coast, up to Wick in the north of Scotland and London in the south of England, and from the length and breadth of Ireland the response has been fantastic. Looking out from my vantage point here I can see thousands of fans united behind each other, and I can tell you, it’s truly an incredible sight.

I’d like to give a special welcome to a number of Celtic fans who unfortunately will not be joining us at Celtic Park later today. Some of them are friends of mine, and they’re among a growing number of Celtic fans who have been targeted by FoCUS and their colleagues within the Police Service of Scotland. They’ve been arrested on bogus charges and subsequently banned from football matches as part of their bail conditions.

Court dates are set for the end of the football season and trials are delayed before charges are eventually dropped or laughed out of court. The police hope that this will scunner them from the football. The police hope that they’ll hassle and harass these fans away from supporting the team they love.

But we’ve got a message for them today, and that message is that we won’t let the police scunner us. We won’t be hassled and harassed away from supporting the team we love and, here in George Square today, I’m delighted to say that the banned bhoys stand with us.

I’d also like to extend another special welcome. This time to a young fan who will be joining us at Celtic Park today. Like many charged over the past couple of years, he’s had to repeatedly travel to the north of Scotland to defend himself. Until yesterday that was, because yesterday he won a significant courtroom victory as a sheriff court judge dismissed the charges against him and branded the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act as a nonsense.

This young fan joined a growing band of supporters who’ve stood up against those that seek to criminalise us and who’ve won. And if we build on the fantastic start we’ve made today, if we continue to pull together as one, then our campaign can do the same.

Thank you.

Friday, 5 April 2013

FAC statement re arrangements for tomorrow

Following the events in and around Gallowgate on 16th March 2013there was a meeting of FAC on Monday 18th March to plan and organise a response to the unprovoked and disproportionate Police action against Celtic fans on that day.

It was decided to hold a static demonstration/Rally in George Square, during which speakers would highlight these events and the problems arising from the police use of the Offensive Behaviour at Football/Threatening Communications legislation. We were advised that citizens have the right of assembly in George Square which is deemed as a public park for this purpose. However, to foster good relations, a decision was made to apply to the City Council for permission to hold this event which was then publicised.

There was further discussion around the fact that the majority of those attending the Rally would be making their way to Celtic Park for the match that afternoon. Mindful of the attacks on our fans by the police, which was one of the reasons for the Rally, we lodged an application with the City Council asking for permission to hold an organised march from the Square to Celtic Park, allowing fans to move to the ground in an orderly manner, free from police interference. This application was lodged on 21/3/13 and in it we acknowledged that we could not give the required 28 days’ notice but we were aware that this had been waived for previous events. We gave a number of reasons as to why we believed that an exception could be made. At no time did we publicise this application as we awaited the Council’s decision.

On 27th March at very short notice we were asked to attend a meeting with Council officials and senior police officers to discuss our applications. At this meeting we were told that the Council would facilitate the rally in the Square but that they were still considering the application for the march from the Square to Celtic Park. Despite these reservations the logistics of such a mass movement were discussed and some agreement reached. We responded to every request including the requirement to provide 250 stewards with high viz vests. We made a number of MSPs and Councillors aware of the meeting and what had been discussed so that they could assist.

On the same day officials from one of the member organisations of FAC had a meeting with other police officers, namely CC Corrigan, Supt Wayne Mawson, and ACC Bernard Higgins of Strathclyde Police who assured them that the police would be happy to agree to a public procession from George Square to Celtic Park. On Thursday at 4.30 we received a phonecall saying the Council was not convinced of the merits of our argument regarding the 28 day notice and therefore the procession could not take place. They asked us to come to a meeting on Tuesday 2nd April but we were unable to organise this in time.

On Tuesday 2nd April at 4.30pm the Principal Officer from the City Council called again to say that though we would not be granted permission to march to Celtic Park, we would actually be ‘facilitated along the carriageway’ by the Police. He asked if FAC organisers would attend a meeting the next morning at 10am. Despite the short notice once again we agreed to do so.

Besides Council and FAC personnel this meeting was also attended by Supt Brian McInulty and Chief Inspector Porte of the Police Service of Scotland. It quickly became apparent that the assurance given the previous evening by the Principal Officer had subsequently been withdrawn and that the police were not prepared to facilitate the movement of supporters from the Square to Celtic Park. We were handed a letter stating that we had not met the requirement to waive the 28 day notice. Specifically, the letter said ‘Having considered your procession notification and consulted with the Chief Constable, the Council is of the view that there are no exceptional circumstances in this case which would persuade it that a waiver of the minimum 28 day notification period is necessary.’

We asked which Chief Constable this was, and were told it was Campbell Corrigan who had, by that time, retired. The Police then began to talk about using our stewards to facilitate dispersal in small numbers and we pointed out that our stewards would not be stewards once the Rally ended. FAC’s aim had been to organise the rally for which we had achieved agreement and we had been refused permission for a march to Celtic Park. On that basis, we pointed out that we had very responsibly made a sensible suggestion to ensure the safety of everyone and that since they had rejected this proposal it was really their responsibility. We questioned them about the change in the position between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning but we were not given a straight answer. We felt that we had nothing to contribute at this point and we left the meeting and asked them to contact us when they had come to an agreement on what they were going to do.

Since Wednesday despite the great effort of MSPs and Councillors we have received the following information:

 • The Council officers are saying that they cannot change their position; but that they understood that the Police could still 'facilitate’ movement ‘along the carriageway' • The police indicated on two separate occasions that as there had been an application and that it had been refused and this meant they would be ‘duty bound’ to intervene. The Council are now saying that they did not 'refuse' the application but that they were unable to 'progress' it because it didn't meet the criteria for the exemption from giving 28 days’ notice.
 • ACC Bernard Higgins was then consulted to see if this interpretation made a difference and he came back and said no.
 • The police are suggesting that they are not going to arrest anyone during the demo but they may speak to the organisers of the rally and anyone else they can identify the following week should an unlawful procession takes place.

Given the depth of feeling which exists, following the events of 16th March, FAC have been careful not to do anything which could be seen to inflame the situation and hope to manage the situation on the day. However we understand that the Police Service of Scotland did issue a statement on this issue, which was posted on their website; was subsequently removed and has now reappeared. This statement is being issued in response to that very inflammatory move by the Police Service of Scotland.

FAC’s Position

FAC has organised and received permission for a static demonstration in George Square which will go ahead as planned and to which we hope many people will come and show their opposition to police aggression, the criminalisation of football fans and the Offensive Behaviour Act.

We trust that, as with the previous FAC demonstration at George Square in October 2011, people will make their way to Celtic Park in a safe, orderly fashion. As can be seen from the above we had hoped to cooperate in this with the authorities but have been denied that opportunity by the combined decisions of Glasgow City Council and the Police Service of Scotland.

We will continue to forward any information /advice to those attending the Rally as and when we receive it.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

FAC pickets Pitt Street Police Station

FAC held a picket protest at Pitt Street Police Station on Tuesday, 2nd April. Here are two videos from the day:

Update on Arrangements for FAC Rally on Saturday 6th April

Arrangements for the Fans against Criminalisation Rally on Saturday in George Square are moving towards completion.  Assemble at 12 and the speakers will begin at 12.30.  The Rally will be introduced by a FAC representative and confirmed speakers are Michael McMahon MSP and Jeanette Findlay, FAC.   We hope to have a legal/civil rights speaker but that is still to be finalised.  We have discussed the arrangements for the use of the Square with Glasgow City Council (including the speakers’ platform and a sound system) and discussions continue regarding the movement of fans from George Square to Celtic Park afterwards.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Report from FAC meeting

Fans Against Criminalisation met on Monday 18 March in response to recent events. We now release the following statement detailing our future plans:

Back in October 2011, 2000 Celtic fans rallied at George Square in protest at the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill that was proceeding through the Scottish Parliament at the time. We argued then that the Bill and the disproportionate policing we had begun to see at matches was criminalising football supporters. Events since then, culminating in the scenes we witnessed on Saturday when police attacked fans on the Gallowgate, have only served to prove us right.

Fans Against Criminalisation is an independent umbrella group comprising the Green Brigade, Celtic Trust, Celtic Supporters Association, Affiliation of Registered Celtic Supporters Clubs and Association of Irish Celtic Supporters Clubs, representing thousands of Celtic fans. As well as recent events, the groups who make up FAC also discussed the issue of meetings which took place between Celtic and two of the supporters’ organisations in November 2012 at which videos were shown. The issue was discussed fully and all sides were able to give accounts of what happened. It was accepted by all sides that while the way it was handled was not what it should have been but there was no malice intended by the fan reps involved and no incident like this would occur again. We then moved on to discuss how we would respond to what has happened and restart our campaign against the criminalisation of the Celtic support.

All groups were in agreement that now, more than ever, we need a united front of Celtic fans against not just the Act but also the wider issues of police harassment and the disproportionate policing we see in our stands and now on our streets. We have organised the following public events and we call on all Celtic fans to support these:
  • Saturday 23 March:  12-2 evidence gathering session (venue to be announced)  
      • there will be an opportunity for anyone who was present on Saturday to come and give a witness statement which will be compiled to produce a full report on Saturday’s events.  These statements will allow us to respond to Strathclyde Police’s defence of their actions without revealing names or contact details of the witnesses.  There will also be an opportunity for people to provide this information online.  We call on those who were directly involved to make a formal complaint to Strathclyde Police but we recognise that many people won’t feel able to.  We will support and assist those who do make a complaint while taking evidence ourselves from those who don’t wish to
  • Tuesday 2nd April: protest/picket (venue to be announced)
  • Saturday 6 April, Rally and Demonstration in George Square, 12pm (including launch of a petition to call for an official inquiry into the police action)
  • Wednesday 24th April, Demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament and submission of the petition

Fans Against Criminalisation