Silence is Golden

The Tremeloes once warbled “Silence is Golden, but my eyes still see.”

I sat in slight bewilderment on Saturday at Celtic Park wondering what the hell was going on in Section 111. It was packed to the rafters but an eerie silence emanated from the stands whilst most others roared Celtic on in the manner they should. Of course, this shouldn’t solely be the Green Brigade’s domain, they should merely be the catalysts. At the weekend past, the ground was working without them. It was a little like hearing an orchestra play without the strings section … it’s music, but not as we know it.

Collectively as a support we should do more to electrify the atmosphere or bring back the thunder. Mea Culpa, mea culpa. Guilty as charged. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t partake as much as I did when I was younger. Or perhaps the sanitisation of Celtic Park has muzzled me.

Believe it or not, I think the introduction of “Bhoys Against Bigotry”, back in 1994, started the pattern. Arguably the disappearance of the “war songs” has been a catalyst but that was Fergus McCann’s vision. He wanted Celtic Park cleaned up. He wanted to bring the families in to create and Americanised version of football.

Was it for the greater good? Few would argue against it. Celtic Park became exactly that; a family place, and so a whole new generation of fans was brought into Celtic, which can’t ever be a bad thing.

The atmosphere at a lot of British grounds has become stale over the years. All seater stadia robbed many great venues of their passion … but at Celtic Park, on those big nights, you would never know anything had changed. Silence is not golden. Silence is … spooky. Those big stands are not supposed to be quiet.

Saturday was different. This was not a collective losing of voices. This was not some virus that swept through the ranks of the support, causing vocal chords to lose their power. This was something else. This was a protest.

We all know by now that the Green Brigade are angry with the club, who have given over some of their personal details to the police – a shocking act, which will have appalling consequences in terms of the trust relationship between fans and club – but this was not a protest directed against the club this time. The silence was in protest at much more sinister goings on, those in the Gallowgate.

Like most others inside the ground, I was dimly aware of the Green Brigade’s planned protest and blindly assumed it had gone swimmingly. I thought the silence was merely a two-fingered salute to the Celtic Board and FoCUS. I’m sure the police were disappointed it wasn’t. That might have given them good cause to huckle a few for the offence of “Sectarian Silence” …. granted, not a law yet, but under MacCaskill’s ever-growing police state it may well come to that in the end.

How wrong was I? As the drama unfolded on the park – and it was high drama, too – I like many others was oblivious to the tawdry goings-on prior to the match. The internet was ablaze with pictorial and video evidence of outlandish and uncalled for police brutality. They say a picture paints a thousand words. Well, these painted a million.

Now, the Police say they weren’t informed of the protest. For an organisation supposed to be monitoring internet communications and websites this seems impossible to accept. It was all over the net, on not just one or two websites but on hundreds of them, and if you’re telling me FoCUS were unaware of that, and we accept that explanation, I’d be asking that they be disbanded and are swiftly put back in uniform or pensioned off … because these people are useless.

Since then, of course, it’s emerged that at least some of their intelligence on the fans has been given to them by Celtic, who have been forwarding details of fans in Section 111 to the police. People are examining whether or not this breaches The Data Protection Act, and we’ll wait and see, but I’m sure Mr. Lawwell and his cohorts are wise enough to be looking at loopholes. They no doubt will have been advised by Harper McLeod.

Legality is a secondary issue here. Perhaps the club “had the right” to do it … but that doesn’t make it right. The morality of this disturbing act is highly questionable at best. To be brutally honest, it’s a sickening breach of faith and one that cuts deep.

Thousands of people walk the same route to Celtic Park on match days without being nicked. Thousands take the same route without being “kettled” or assaulted with a baton. Even more worrying is that these crowds will contain a good few 15 year old boys. My son is coming on 12 this year and I can see him wanting to make his own way to the games. But with this kind of behaviour by those who are supposed to be Guardians of Society then I’d be having my concerns.

Can you imagine your son or daughter being “kettled” for simply joining in a peaceful protest? To those unfamiliar (like myself up until Sunday) with what it is here’s a brief explanation.

Police surround demonstrators to keep them in a particular place. This is called a ‘kettle’, or in official police language, ‘containment.’ Often large numbers of police are involved, and people may be stopped from leaving or joining the demo.

To me, it simply looked like a human cattle ring designed to antagonise those contained. These can be used for many hours and it’s widely accepted that this process doesn’t calm anyone down. The tactic is purely antagonistic

Reports suggest the police were subject to provocation, and to abuse. Let’s be clear. On none of the videos – the many, many videos – doing the rounds is there any sign of the police being “provoked” or intimidated. It is perfectly clear, from every image, just who the aggressors here are. Clue; the guys in blue suits are the ones holding up batons, whilst facing this “hostile crowd” partly made up of kids. The “hostile crowd” is largely silent in most of the recordings, vastly outnumbered by the minions of the state.

Let’s be honest; if we’d watched these scenes on TV we’d have been forgiven for thinking it was Syria, or Iran, or China or one of those other godforsaken places where the church you belong to, or the flag you fly, or the songs you sing, or the politics you believe in makes you an Enemy of the State … oh wait … welcome to Scotland, 2013 … I bet they won’t be putting these scenes on the referendum publicity.

Let’s take the Green Brigade out of the equation for a moment. This isn’t about one group of noisy, colourful fans whose political preferences do not curry favour with Celtic, the police, the media or those who follow the team from Govan. It’s about the ordinary fan.

Over a year and a half ago, around 2000 Celtic fans rallied at George Square in protest at the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill that was proceeding through the Scottish Parliament at great haste.

Why? Because one Celtic v Rangers game lived up to its “powderkeg”  billing. You know, the one when Lennon & McCoist laddered their tights, with the Rangers assistant breaking one of his heels. Handbags as they say. Just what is the arrest rate now at games? I remember back in the 80s you could have hundreds being banged up after Celtic v Rangers.

On Saturday when police attacked fans on the Gallowgate, it only served to prove that the sham of a Bill gave the police disproportionate powers when dealing with football fans. They are no more than neds with uniforms.

And who says so? I would suggest that when you have the Morning Star slamming you from the left, and The Spectator slamming you from the right, and when the various shades of political colour and hue in between are hammering you, you’re wrong, wrong, wrong and you’ve crossed the line between policing and oppressing.

Isn’t Institutionalised sectarianism a more widespread problem within Scottish society? Various studies have shown that it is, yet I’m unaware of any Bill being passed on this. Is it only bred at football grounds? The demonisation of the football fan continues at an almighty and worrying pace. Many young men are being made out to be hooligans under the guise of this dreadful peace of law-making.

Now, more than ever, we need a united front amongst Celtic fans and other football supporters against this act. Police harassment has spread from the stands to the streets and that is too far, and what was a worrying situation has become dangerous.

Celtic has moved to ban fans from the ground who were involved in incidents which took place many miles from the stadium. What next? A three match ban for a speeding ticket? Perhaps they may use Section 111 as a “Sin Bin” for litter louts and jaywalkers? God help those who commit a proper, serious offence.

They used to hang people in the Gallowgate, after all … or maybe they’ll just march them to Celtic Park, put them in the stocks, confiscate their season tickets for life and make them wear a Rangers trackie on the walk home.

I stand up 110% for the Green Brigade, whose civil liberties are being violated. I stand up for the young men  who are being constantly monitored for no greater “crime” than having political views, singing songs and unfurling the odd banner. And you know what? Those “political views” might not be to the taste of some, and might righteously offend a group of ignorant bigots who will try to spin it any way they like, but those same political views have returned men and women to our very own parliament in London and the Assembly across the water. Small minded fools who condemn anything that isn’t sanitised and safe … your own opinions are no less repellant to me, as grounded as they are in sheer ignorance of anything not repeated with subtitles in a Sunday omnibus.

I applaud the Green Brigade for having the balls to stand up against something they see as unjust. Whatever else you might say about these people, say this; they are out there, putting it on the line, right at the front, and the fight they’re in is as much about our freedoms as their own. It is moral cowardice not to stand with them, whether you agree with their political views or not. Freedoms – all our freedoms – are at stake.

It’s time we all stood up for the Green Brigade. As i previously said, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea but they are being set up as guinea pigs for this bill and if they are disbanded it could be you or I next. Think that sounds crazy? Many of us said the same about the “illegal assembly” regulations when they were brought in … that they were highly regressive, and would one day be used for something other than for which they were put on the statute books.

See the picture at the start of this article. Exhibit A, if you will.

I now understand why the Green Brigade chose to sit in silence. It was not an act of petulance as some may think. It was defiance and they have the right to remain silent.

If some were to have their way; the whole section would be getting it in a more formal setting … as part of their rights being read to them.

Shame on us, shame on all of us, if we allow it. There is more at stake than The Thunder.

Victory to The Green Brigade.

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Comments on Silence is Golden

  • http://Twitter Peggy mac cormick

    I agree with every word and applaud the green brigade.i remember going to celtic park before the green brigade and the atmosphere was flat.if the team lost the fans shouted abuse at players.i’d much rather listen or join in singing than listen to grown men swearing which was all we heard.it certainly was no place for family and got to the stage where we felt safer staying at home.

  • justafan

    While I agree with your sentiments, and definitely dont agtee with their politics, they do have a right to express their views, and I also bsck them to keep doing this, but I wish politics were kept out of football grounds and if we are talking OF then CEltic park and Ibrox we should not because it shouldn’t concern football.
    It’s our right to protest and if as you say it was a silent protest it makes it even worse, one wee point if they never had permission and I’m assuming they had to have it (which I also think is wrong), they should have got it so there was no chance the police doing this to them, well not so heavy handed anyways.

  • a fan

    I remember going to a game a few years ago when they started saying over the tannoy that celtic park was an all-seated stadium so the green brigade for the first 20minutes of the match sat in silence and those first 20minutes where almost awkward no one singing just the odd shout at the team from a fan but 20minutes in the green brigade had enough and they erupted back in to full voice and it was a huge relief that they did, the whole stadium stood and applauded them for it

  • James Forrest

    Here’s a comment from Hugh Clark, who was in the area at the time …

    “The police earlier in the week went to the Crystal bar and told them that the procession did not have permission and would not be allowed to go ahead. Just one piece of evidence that they did know and lied about their lack of knowledge. Why did they feel the need to lie about their intelligence?

    The police use the word “Containment” because kettling has been deemed to be against human rights and is illegal.

    I was in that ring and the only people I saw or heard antagonising people were the police. I personally wish to praise those inside for not biting to this tactic aimed to provoke them into a reaction that would result in them being arrested.

    Also not everyone contained were members of the Green brigade. There are not that many members for a start! As I wrote, I was was there. I am not a member. I don’t even agree with the Green brigade on many points. This was Celtic supporters together that offended the police.

    I suggested to one policeman containing me that too many of them saw their job as Tommy McCrindle did, as pest control. A huge smile of contentment and satisfaction came to his face as he exaggeration a grin with a gentle nodding of his head. The policeman beside him saw this and said to the people beside that he was only doing his job. He had been told to stand here and like every working person, he does at work what he is told. The Nuremberg defence was actually the good cop trying to calm down scared young boys who felt legalised Anti-Celtic bigots were about to bring more trouble to their lives.

    It is really important that everyone realises and stops referring to the people abused by police that day as Green brigade. It was Celtic supporters.

    All Celtic supporters should be disgusted by this and motivated to take action and support other Celtic supporters being abused. Regardless of your view of their politics. The actions of the police were political. This was an attack on the Celtic support. The words of Martin Niemoeller come to mind.”

  • Tony

    Was expecting another glorious rant. This is even better though, a calm balanced assessment of where we are. The boys have been shouldering the burden by themselves for too long now, time for men to get involved. I sent the e-mail a few days ago offering my services.

  • Jeanette Findlay

    This is an excellent piece and just about covers everything that needs to be said. Can I just plug the following though? Evidence gathering session in St Mary’s, Abercromby Street on Saturday 23rd between 12 and 2 (if you were affected or just a witness, please come and tell FAC in confidence); Rally in George Square (before the Hibs game) assemble 12pm on Saturday 6 April. There will be other FAC events and like Gavin says, we all need to stand shoulder to shoulder on this one – an injury to one is an injury to all.

  • Taggart

    we’d have been forgiven for thinking it was Syria, or Iran, or China or one of those other godforsaken places

    Oh, dear, oh dear, oh dear. That alone negates any points you might or might not have. That is beyond crass, and beyond ignorant. Shame on you.

  • James Forrest

    Thanks for stopping by Taggart.

    I take it from your choice of name you’re no stranger to wielding a baton. What a shock to see you defending the forces of “law and order.”

    Saturday’s display was a shameful spectacle, an assault on free expression which those regimes would have been very comfortable with.

    I make no apology for letting that comment stand.

  • gerard reilly

    i believe the case for the defence has been put neatly and correctly by james and the replies in this column ! – firstly i,m very annoyed and surprised that celtic .f.c, have supposedly assisted the so -called investigation on the section of CELTIC supporters in section 111, who like 55,000 other CELTIC supporters pay top dollar to SUPPORT the club throughout the year , after year and forever ! so i would like someone involved in this intrusion of civil liberty aimed at a number of CELTIC supporters to let the public into their spanish inquisition like witch hunt of human beings who happen to be CELTIC supporters and happen to like singing praise of their team ( CELTIC) – and in doing so help to lift the team and the ” SUPPORTERS ” ?? – when did supporting CELTIC become a crime ? because no matter how those jobsworths dress up or dress down the facts ? this is an attack on free speech ! – funny how many times the word CELTIC has been highlighted by myself in this post ? – the purpose is to point out that CELTIC are at the hub of the matter , and they are a football team , but at present they are being a little silent on the cause of this issue , thank the lord the supporters in section 111, will not be silent and will continue to cheer up the CELTIC supporters and the team as the song says ” FOREVER AND EVER ” !!!!

  • http://ntlworld andy doc

    I had to walk my 13 year old round to section 112 during the CL campaign – I sit in the front stand – normally I have no problem with him going in himself but the CL games were so busy I walked him up before going to my own seat. I witnessed police stopping and searching youths headed towards 111 & 112 – they weren’t doing anything, not singing, no banners, nothing, just walking towards 111 / 112.
    Contrast this with my own turnstiles – I’ve never seen the police stop, question or search anyone – why? We’re all Celtic supporters – what’s so different with fans entering 111 / 112 than any other part of the ground?
    Last week when I was going into the Aberdeen game I had a bag with about 50 programmes in it to give away – the police weren’t interested even when I showed them the bag – I told them it was programmes and they accepted this – do you imagine I would have been afforded the same courtesy had I been 30 years younger and tried to take the bag into 111 / 112.
    Ther is no doubt in my mind that the PLC are in collusion with the police with regards the Green Brigade – the question is why?
    Why are the PLC colluding with the police and alienating a group who have given so much to the team?
    The PLC are quick to make money out of the GB, you just need to check out the t-shirts on sale in the club shop – just can’t get enough, glasgow’s green & white, etc and how much did they make from selling pictures of the display before the Barcelona game (by the way, what did Celtic do in honour of our 125th anniversary?)?
    like them or not, the GB have added something to the match day experience – they have probably stopped thousands from giving up their season tickets because they have created an atmosphere inside the ground. So why do the PLC allow them to be hounded? If the GB are forced out of CP, I can see the attendances dropping even further – can’t the PLC see this?
    Can I add, the F$$$ UEFA banner that caused so much controversy and which the GB got blamed for, has been displayed by about 40 other Ultra groups accross Europe – I haven’t read of any other team being fined. Could it be that the police security travelling with the Celtic fans reported the banner to UEFA who were forced to take action in the same way that the match commander reported illicit singing at CP at another european game resulting in another fine for the club. Can you think of any other team in europe where their own police department would report them to EUFA – I can’t.

  • John Davis

    Gavin, I have been at a loss to understand what this is all about, and therefore struggled to make any sense of it. Certainly, any sense that would help form a coherent opinion. 200 football fans congregate to walk together to their club’s stadium to watch a game…where’s the problem? The more sensible approach would have been for the police to escort the fans along the road – or am I being naïve? From an outside perspective, it certainly appears to have been a complete over-reaction, and wholly mismanaged. It’s just another sorry episode in the sorry saga of the sorry state of Scottish football, as we currently know it. I may digress slightly, but that’s because I think this is bigger than the Green Brigade; bigger than the supporters as a whole; and bigger than Celtic. It affects all of Scottish football.

    The whole of Scottish football is at an all-time low: one of the oldest clubs in the game has been liquidated and reconstituted into the lowest division; several other long-established clubs are on the brink of being established no-more; attendances are dropping faster than Felix Baumgartner falling from the edge of space; and the national team is an international embarrassment. The Scottish game needs to reinvent itself to make it more attractive to the fans, and, dare I say it, to sponsors and media, alike. The events that bookended the past week will in no way help to achieve this. The aims of FoCus, or certainly, how it is being executed, do not appear to help either. In fact, it could be argued it’s a spelling error and should be ‘FuCus’.

    You could be forgiven for thinking the stramash in the Gallowgate was deliberately orchestrated by the police, intended to provoke a reaction to justify the means. If a business wants to introduce change to it’s organisation the best way of doing so is through reacting to a crisis. If there is no crisis to react against, and affect that change, it is common practice to create a crisis to suit. It could be argued that this may be the real focus for FoCus. Police authorities are currently being reorganised, remodelled, and reduced in size. Might a crisis of ‘civil disobedience’ (real or imagined) be used as an argument against reducing its numbers? Or maybe I’m reading too much into it and being a bit of a fantasist and conspiracy theorist.

    However, the parlous state of Scottish football is not stuff of fantasy…it’s all too real. It needs strong and determined leadership. If it’s to survive, all the authorities (government, police,the SFA, the Clubs) need to take their full responsibility to stop the continuing demise of our game – before the damage becomes too great and wholly irreversible. Sadly, I cannot see this happening anytime soon, so we continue with the decline.

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