The following is a first-hand account of a violent and highly orchestrated attack on a peaceful legal march for Irish Unity in Glasgow, Scotland last weekend. (for the Socialist Republican Media blog)
As several hundred Republican, antifascists and other various supporters of Irish Unity gathered for a peaceful demonstration in support of a United Ireland, organised by the James Connolly Flute Band it seemed like it would be a fairly peaceful uneventful march.
This was not the case, within 30 minutes of the JCFB and the Coatbridge United Irishmen Band setting up, the entrance to Elder Park was blocked by Crown forces preventing the march from starting, whilst further up Govan Rd and part of our planned route, were several hundred members of loyalist and far right groups hell bent on violently disrupting the march and setting fire to makeshift barricades they had dragged onto the roads and squaring off to Police Scotland.
It wasn’t long before the loyalist thugs breached police lines and charged towards the location of the bands and there followers which was also made up of families with young children.
Shouting ‘f*ck the IRA’, chanting ‘Billy boys’ and displaying the usual butchers aprons and a Brit paratroop regiment flag, they were met by a block of roughly 100 Republicans and antifascists who, although heavily outnumbered, held the hordes off and protected the bands under a hail of bottles stones and pyrotechnics.
Eventually the crown forces managed to separate the two and the loyalists were forced back along Govan Rd, only to regroup and enter through the back of the park, where apparently Police Scotland had left the area unmanned. This resulted in running battles between the two sides.
Again outnumbered and surrounded we stood our ground and fought back an armed loyalist mob. It was several minutes before police realised what was happening and another while to regain some control.
They appeared to be more interested in trying to catch several of the younger Republican youths who came to see the bands but ended up defending themselves rating than dealing with the loyalist aggressors.
Eventually the march was able to proceed with police lines surrounding the march every inch of the new route buy this time it was nearly 8.30pm. Less than 15 minutes later several small outbreaks of violence occurred along the route as loyalists and fascists continued to try and stop us from marching. It was at this point we were surrounded by Crown forces in full riot gear, dog units and riot vans and kettled in.
Due to methods enforced by the riot officers the march moved really slowly, stopping and starting at regular intervals but continued on without any more incidents. The march finished at the Tall Crane Bar in Govan which had also came under attack by a large group of knuckle-draggers who smashed car windows and stole flags that were hung outside the bar.
Despite all the odds stacked against us, be it the violence and hatred aimed at us by loyalist thugs or Crown forces pressuring the organisers to cancel the march, we did not bow down, even though we were heavily outnumbered and under hostile conditions.