Glasgow: Police ratchet up repression

Glasgow Against Atos (GAA) has been stepping up its campaign for scrapping both the Work Capability Assessment and the Department of Work and Pensions’ contracts with Atos. Such has been its success that the Scottish Daily Mail has ‘exposed’ the GAA as a violent left-wing conspiracy! As the campaign has developed so the Strathclyde Police has increased its monitoring and harassment. On 22 February, over 50 cops were involved in trying to close down a protest against Atos, arresting two campaigners, both members of FRFI, one for using a megaphone, and the other for allegedly trying to liberate a prisoner from custody. Both were released following protest phone calls to the police station where they were being held and were given bail conditions banning them from protests in Glasgow city centre.

On 6 March, campaigners occupied Atos offices in Glasgow. There were no arrests but police officers decided to warn the activists against attending the following day’s free speech rally for the GAA 2, as they would be associating with ‘confrontational’ and ‘rogue’ elements – ie, FRFI supporters. The attempt to divide the campaign failed and a militant rally of over 50 people defied attempts to ban the use of the megaphone. On 22 March GAA campaigners held a successful picket of Glasgow Sheriff Court where the banning orders against the two were dropped.

In a further sinister development, police claiming to operate from Glasgow city centre targeted one of the GAA 2, Daniel McGarrell, who is also active against the bedroom tax in Hamilton. Daniel told FRFI: ‘On Friday 15 March, a police officer visited my home and left a card with his name (DC Barry Weir) and a phone number. The card said that the visit was in connection with an ongoing CID investigation. I called the number on Saturday to find out why they had visited my home. Weir told me he wanted to meet up with me and that the meeting could be beneficial to both of us.’ Daniel asked the cop which police station he worked from, to which he received evasive answers. The cop then spoke about Daniel’s forthcoming court appearance and repeated that a meeting would be mutually beneficial. At this point Daniel ended the conversation.

On Sunday 17 March, Daniel’s legal representative contacted the main Hamilton police station which claimed that they had no record of a DC Weir. She then contacted DC Weir’s number and demanded Weir’s shoulder number. Weir refused to give this, refused to say what department he was from and refused to say what his proposed meeting would be about. Daniel’s lawyer ended the conversation by telling Weir that she would be advising Daniel not to speak to him.

Strathclyde police have a long record of harassing political activists. It seems that they are stepping up their intimidation of political protests. For the past year, they have targeted a progressive Celtic supporters group, the Green Brigade. On Saturday 16 March, a peaceful march by 200 Green Brig­ade supporters, calling for an end to police harassment, was the target of a massive show of state force. Literally hundreds of police from across the city with horses, dogs and a helicopter were mobilised to attack the march. Fans were kettled, attacked with batons, and up to 30 people violently attacked or arrested. This was in stark contrast to the cops’ facilitation of a sectarian Orange Order parade earlier in the day.

The lesson is clear: take action in defence of working class interests, organise against the cuts or the bedroom tax, and you will have to face police repression. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Glasgow Against Atos will not be driven off the streets, and will defend any supporter who is arrested on its activities or who is otherwise targeted by the police.

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Dominic Mulgrew and Joey Simons

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013