Glasgow - Fighting political policing

The fight against the cuts in Glasgow has also become a fight against police repression. FRFI supporters have been harassed, arrested and face court trials for their role in protests last December against tax-evading monopolies and student fees. To oppose this political policing, they have set up the Glasgow Defence Campaign (GDC, http://glasgowdefencecampaign.blogspot.com), now supported by John Pilger and Ken Loach.

The Save the Accord Centre campaign has now become the most significant struggle against council cuts in Glasgow. The Labour council is demolishing the learning disabilities day centre to build a bus park for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Carers, parents and service users from the working class community of Dalmarnock have been fighting for a like-for-like replacement. The council is refusing to build one, citing the ‘economic climate’ while handing over millions to private developers and land speculators. At a protest outside the City Council Chambers on 31 March, 20 police faced 15 demonstrators. As the protest ended, two FRFI supporters were seized by the police and dumped in the back of a police van. One was questioned by a police officer who was due to appear as a witness in a court case against him. The second was threatened with a charge of ‘breach of the peace’.

On 11 April, the GDC organised a protest outside the trial of FRFI activist Dominic O’Hara, who was found guilty of a fitted-up charge of police assault at a student protest on 9 December 2010. During the three days following the trial, two 17-year old activists and three FRFI supporters, including Dominic and his 14 year-old brother, were arrested after police visited their homes. They were charged with breach of the peace at the December protest and released with draconian bail conditions, prohibiting entry into the city centre and the right to assembly. In response, FRFI, the GDC and the Free Hetherington occupation at Glasgow University organised a rally in Glasgow city centre on 16 April. Over 60 people gathered to explicitly condemn the actions of Strathclyde police and the attack on anti-cuts organisation. On 21 April, the Procurator Fiscal dropped charges against seven activists including the O’Hara brothers.

To raise the profile of the fight against political policing, FRFI supporters joined the annual May Day march through Glasgow and ap­proached Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the Union, to support the GDC. To his credit, Mc­Cluskey agreed, and gave special mention of the work of the GDC in his speech at the end. He sent the message to Strathclyde police – ‘Keep your sleazy hands off our kids!’ It shows that principled, public campaigning can achieve widespread support. For the moment at least, Strathclyde police have backed off.

A few days later, on 12 May, FRFI joined the Accord campaigners once again outside Glasgow City Chambers, disrupting a meeting of the Council’s Executive Committee. Protesters stood with masks over their mouths and placards demanding ‘Break the media silence!’ and ‘Glasgow Labour council – shame on you!’ Grace Harrigan, whose son uses the centre, told FRFI ‘Every Labour councillor in the East end and Glasgow city council are responsible, they refuse to return our calls.’ Mary McArthur, whose daughter is also a centre user, spoke about press hostility: ‘The papers called us hecklers – that we were a rent a mob – they made no mention of who we are or what is going on.’ FRFI has established a new blog to detail and oppose the cuts: http://nocutsfullstop.blogspot.com

Paul Mallon and Joey Simons

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 221 June/July 2011

 

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