Last year was somewhat unique. It will rightly be remembered as the year our great rivals died. Yet what seemed to almost slip under the radar amidst the hilarity at Ibrox was the continued harassment of the Green Brigade, and the Celtic fans in general by Strathclyde Police both before and after the SNP legislation was scribbled. We have remained relatively quiet on this issue up until now, but it has got us nowhere and the harassment has continued; in fact it has worsened.
Most Celtic fans heard about the unprecedented case of the 17 year old Celtic fan remanded in custody at HM Polmont Young Offenders Instituiton for an alleged breach of the peace. The fall-out and the protests of other Celtic fans led to that thankfully being overturned before too much damage was done to a young boy. However, there are numerous other cases that haven’t been made public and so the Police have escaped criticism and been allowed to arrest and charge who they want, when they want. These include three of our members arrested by CID (two at home, one at work) after holding a banner reading ‘Huns FC’. Their case lasted the best part of two years before finally a ‘Not proven’ verdict was delivered. The cost of that case will have been astronomical. Clearly unhappy at this, the Police arrested one of the above AGAIN, this time for alleged sectarian singing. This never even made the courtroom, after the CCTV was shown outside the court, showing him clearly singing ‘Up the Celts’ much to the embarrassment of the officers who turned up as Prosecution witnesses.
After the highly-successful ‘Fans Against Criminalisation’ demo at George Square, Celtic played Hibs in a bore 0-0 draw. The game will be remembered by many though, after the Police unnecessarily waded into 111 looking to make arrests for reasons unknown. On the concourse after the game, they successfully arrested one of our members, accusing him of abusing their officers. Again, this was nothing but a blatant lie and led to another court case with THREE different trial dates. A Not Guilty verdict was returned when the case was finally heard.
A month or so later, and we had another member in court. This time his alleged crime was for ‘assault and resisting arrest’ at a Semi-final at Hampden. Again though, he was found not guilty. We have some other court cases pending as we speak, but we are confident these will go the same way as every other one so far. However, they are still obviously causing massive inconvenience and are having a huge effect on people’s livelihoods.
These charges have all led to our members missing matches watching and supporting the team they love. Celtic had banned every one of them while the cases were on-going. Indeed, the club do all they can to facilitate the Police and have offered no help whatsoever to their own support. After the match in Udine in December, Celtic banned a handful of supporters after flares were lit before kick off. One of these fans was a female season book holder in 111 whom, rather bizarrely, was watching the match from the comfort of her own living room! Thankfully, this was overturned eventually after it was pointed out to Celtic security that they had quite clearly made a rather embarrassing yet damaging mistake.
The level of surveillance applied to section 111 and the Green Brigade specifically verges on the surreal and is an astronomical waste of tax payers’ money. 90 minute surveillance clearly isn’t sufficient though as we learn from being filmed when approaching and leaving stadiums. A small band of Strathclyde Police following our members around Europe attempting to make their trips abroad uncomfortable also now appears to be common practice. Perhaps the hardest one for us to take is being filmed when inside Celtic Park hours early setting up for a display. Further from Celtic officials obviously accommodating such procedures they now believe it to be acceptable to hand over personal details of our members. Private information such as mobile phone numbers, names and addresses have been swapping hands without consent, even in instances where there is no alleged crime to answer for. Sadly, for us at least, this type of behaviour isn’t wholly surprising from Celtic officials – whether it is being sanctioned by Chief Executive Peter Lawwell who privately described our songs as ‘cancerous’ or Head of Security Ronnie Hawthorn who willingly will ban dedicated Celtic supporters offering them no chance of a defence against their alleged breach.
In recent weeks there has been a noticeable upsurge from Strathclyde Police in targeting the Celtic support. Up until now they have tried and failed to secure convictions for singing Irish Republican songs, attempting to concoct all manner of charges desperate to find one that will stick. Under their new ‘Anti-Football Legislation’ they are now targeting the Roll of Honour with a number of fans being arrested and charged with ‘offensive behaviour’ and even ‘Racial BOTP’ for singing this song. The most recent arrest being one of our members who was arrested while leaving Celtic Park at the Kilmarnock fixture and who has only just been released after being handed a weekend in the cells. Co-coincidentally, or ironically even, the accused just happens to be someone who has already been through the charade of a football charge with all the accompanying delights and he came away victorious. You’d excuse his paranoia for thinking he was being targeted and tested here.
Perhaps quite unbelievable to some it is not just at or around matches where we get such unwarranted attention. A few months ago one of our members applied for a licence to become a taxi driver. Normally, this would be a straight-forward procedure for a young man with nothing but a minor Breach of the Peace charge from his teenage years. Not quite. He received a letter explaining that his application had been rejected on the grounds that he’s not a ‘fit and proper person’ – an accusation based solely on his connections to the Green Brigade. This had come from the Chief Constable. Thankfully, after appeal, the licence was granted in the end but with no thanks to Strathclyde Police.
The above is just some of the instances of police harassment in the last 10-12 months. Not only is it causing innocent football fans great stress and hitting them badly in the pocket, it’s also costing the taxpayer a fortune. For too long, we have sat back and let them do as they please but it has to stop, and we hope that the coming weeks and months will eventually see a change in their approach and we can get back to supporting our team without fear of arrest at home or away. We believe we sacrifice an awful lot as individuals and as a group in what we do. We dedicate our time and money for our passion of supporting Celtic in our style and we have always attempted to maintain an amicable working relationship with Celtic employees for the benefit of both parties – even when in dispute over certain issues. However we will not tolerate the level of harassment we continue to face nor Celtic PLC’s compliant attitude.