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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