Oppose the criminalisation of progressive football fans!

Over the past few months in Scotland, politicians and public figures, newspapers and the police have begun a war aimed at criminalising progressive football supporters. The Scottish Parliament is currently debating the Scottish National Party’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill. The Bill bans the singing of ‘offensive’ political songs and would give each police officer the power to arrest and charge people for acting in a way that the state deems offensive. Although the Bill will affect all football fans, there can be no doubt that it is aimed at, and will be used most against, supporters of Celtic Football Club because of their support for the Irish Republican movement and for the Palestinian struggle.

The recently-formed campaign Fans Against Criminalisation held a rally against the Bill in George Square, Glasgow on 29 October, which attracted thousands. Since then several fans have been arrested as the state goes on the offensive using existing legislation. At 6am on Friday 11 November, Strathclyde Police kicked down the door of a 17-year-old Celtic supporter, arrested him and held him in custody over the weekend. On the Monday afternoon he was charged with sectarian breach of the peace and was remanded in custody for seven weeks. At the same court sitting someone accused of attempted murder was granted bail. It required the intervention of Scotland’s chief law officer, the Lord Advocate, to see bail eventually granted. Compare this with the case of John Wilson, a 26-year-old Hearts fan who punched Celtic manager Neil Lennon and was heard shouting ‘you fenian bastard’: his charge of assault aggravated by sectarian hatred was dropped. Wilson was convicted only of breach of the peace.

At recent matches at Celtic Park police have waded into crowds to arrest fans in the Green Brigade’s section of the ground: they are now under constant police surveillance. It is quite clear that under the guise of fighting ‘sectarianism’ the state is trying to stamp on those who are against racism and sectarianism. The new Bill is anti-Irish racism: kill the Bill!

Connor Riley

Details of the campaign can be found at: fansagainstcriminalisation.blogspot.com

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 224 December 2011/January 2012

 

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