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 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 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.