2007 - 2021

Archie, Oprah and the Battle for George Square

We shouldn’t pretend that the display of violence in George Square, the police complicity, the ‘exposure’ of racism within the Royal family or the impulses of Brexit are separate and distinct phenomena. They are not. Once again it’s worth joining the dots between hyper-British nationalism, race hate and sectarianism.

Oprah Winfrey might be shocked at Meghan’s revelations that there were “concerns and conversations” within the palace about their son Archie and “how dark his skin might be when he’s born” – but the rest of us were not.

This is a family soaked in colonialism and empire whose entire reason for being is about the continuity of blood line and dynasty over time – and whose entire premise is feudal hierarchy.

There is of course the multiple recent examples of explicit racism from within the Windsor family, and the well-known wider history of links to fascism – the famous film from 1933 showing the Queen, and her sister Margaret, joining their mother and their uncle, Edward, the Prince of Wales, performing a Nazi salute; in 1936 when King George V dies he is succeeded by his eldest son, Prince Edward – shortly after Edward’s accession, the German embassy in London sent a cable personally to Hitler, it read: “An alliance between Germany and Britain is for him [the King] an urgent necessity”; in 1937 the former King Edward and his wife – now the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – paid a visit to Nazi Germany, there they meet Hitler and dine with his deputy, Rudolf Hess, and visit a concentration camp; in 1938 the England football team give the Nazi salute to the crowd at Berlin’s Olympic stadium.

All of which can and will be endlessly excused and conveniently contextualized, but, as Sam Kriss points out, there’s much more: “There was Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry and Secretary of State for Air, who was a frequent visitor to Nazi Germany, where he met with Hitler, Himmler, Göring, Hess, and other beswastika’d hosts. There was the Right Club, a pro-Nazi group within the aristocracy and political class whose members (including MPs and the 5th Duke of Wellington) greeted each other with “Perish Judah,” cheerfully trilling their commitment to the extermination of European Jews. And there were long and deep links between MI5 and the Gestapo, who carefully coordinated their actions against Communism and similar threats to the white race.”

Anyway, back to George Square, the symbolic location for so many moments of political drama.

Why there? Why not Ibrox?

Because this was a show of force, not just a ‘celebration’. No other location would do.

This was a display of power, endorsed by the club, ignored by the media and colluded-in by the police.

 

The double-standards are staggering. At a peaceful socially-distanced and stewarded UN anti-racism day event in George Square last June members of the Green Brigade were kettled and marched off to a different part of the city. Yesterday the police did exactly the opposite, marching the Rangers fans into the city centre.

Compare that to scenes at #GeorgeSqare yesterday.

Brexitland Britain, Brexitland Glasgow

And the stench of Brexit lies behind much if this fervor billowing like red white and blue smoke across George Square.

 

 

As I wrote in 2019 (‘Flutes in Whitehall, Fascists on the Streets’):

“The arrival of the Livingston True Blues Flute Band in Whitehall with their Confederate flag brings the two referenda of 2014 and 2016 neatly together. The same people who rioted in Glasgow the day after the referendum result in 2014 were present in Whitehall at the Leave Means Leave rally. While the media wrung its hands about an egg thrown at Jim Murphy, Better Together supporters organised a full-on riot. As the outpouring of white nationalism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia and racism mingled in a spew of hate in London yesterday, the ascendancy of the far-right into the mainstream is complete. As the state shudders in the harsh light of self-inflicted national humiliation and constitutional crisis, British fascism needs the tunes of the Loyalist bands to dance to. Even the Daily Record reports: “Brexit nightmare may yet get darker as far right seeks to reap dividend from broken politics”.

Of course it should be said that not all Rangers fans are motivated by royalism, unionism or racism. Not all Rangers fans are loyalists, many decent fans just support the football team and want rid of all this. But many are complicit by their silence. The club has proved completely incapable of ridding itself of this profitable sub-culture which it quietly nurtures. The club – normally not shy of issuing statements – was completely silent yesterday.

Other excuses are that there would have been a riot if the police did anything else, which itself sounds like a city that can’t be controlled. If there are forces in Glasgow that threaten violence in numbers and are beyond the powers of the police then that is a remarkable state of affairs in 2021. Is that what we are seriously saying? It seems it is.

Others have said that this was just (mostly young) football fans blowing off steam after a year of lockdown. Are we really saying that a display of male violence can dominate and threaten a city centre whenever we like? It seems we are.

 

We know that the ultra-Unionist Rangers fans venerate the Queen and the Monarchy, but as the Irish News reported in 2015 (`Billy Boys’ link to the Ku Klux Klan‘) the links between loyalism and racism are explicit:

“A HIGH profile Scottish loyalist who took part in Twelfth marches in Belfast in the 1930s, went on to start a branch of the Ku Klux Klan in Glasgow. Billy Fullerton led a notorious gang, the Brigtown Boys, whose signature tune was “The Billy Boys”, an infamous sectarian song which was associated with the Orange Order and Rangers Football Club. The song, which includes the line: “We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood”, was banned from football grounds by the Scottish government in 2011. Born in the Bridgeton area of Glasgow, Fullerton formed the Brigton Billy Boys, an anti-Catholic gang from Bridgeton Cross, in 1924. At its height, the gang had 800 members. According to reports, Fullerton led the Bridgeton Purple and Crown Flute Band which marched during the Twelfth in Belfast in the 1930s. When the Billy Boys went into decline in the late 1930s, Billy Fullerton joined Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and went on to start a Glasgow branch of the Ku Klux Klan.”

The incident raises fundamental questions about who owns public space and if Glasgow – and Scotland – can ever change. It raises fundamental questions about public safety in a pandemic and the tolerance for threat and violence. The incident not just threatens to upset the corona virus recovery in Glasgow, but also undermines events like the forthcoming Euros.

The excuses are already being made, and the tendency to say ‘nothing to see here’ will be put into play. With a pliant and useless broadcast media and politicians seemingly unwilling (or unable) to investigate policing, this will continue. Many in Scottish society will look on in despair as a city is trashed. All we can do is continue to join the dots between hyper-British nationalism, race hate and sectarianism.

Comments (42)

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  1. Republic of Merkinch says:

    It’s curious how 1980s violent English football hooliganism was pacified by the MDMA rave scene, and how this evolution has bypassed Rangers fans, as if, like you say, they are driven by something else far darker than random violence.

  2. Alastair McIver says:

    This is, for the most part, an astute and insightful article, but be careful of saying “The media are ignoring” things that are, in fact, all over the media. That sort of talk makes us sound like the nutters!

    1. Sorry I should have been clearer.

      I said the “display of power” was being ignored by the media, which it was. Much of the coverage is superficial or even celebratory. I wasn’t meant to suggest it was being kept off the air.

      1. Glasgow Clincher says:

        Of course it should be said that not all Rangers fans are motivated by royalism, unionism or racism. Not all Rangers fans are loyalists, many decent fans just support the football team and want rid of all this.

        Exactly. Do you honestly think that Celtic fans would not celebrate in the heart of the city too?

        As for racism and the royal family, Meghan whatever her name is a white woman with a tan. Self-publicist to the last.

        1. Cathie Lloyd says:

          Hard to believe anyone can say something like this!

          1. Quite disgusting, but sadly not surprising

        2. Callum says:

          A main course of whataboutery followed up with a bit of unadulterated racism for dessert. This article is all about you, meat head.

      2. Alastair McIver says:

        Agreed. Media coverage was very un-critical.

    2. Jack Collatin says:

      Och, Alastair, the media could hardly ignore it, but as usual, omitted the evil behind this abhorrent display of violent power.
      For example, the opening questions at Swinney’s Covid briefings to day were from the STV and BBC hacks, who both referred to this disgrace as ‘Celebrations’ of Rangers ‘fans’.
      Douglas Ross dangling his infant son to the world to show what a lovely family man he is, unless you’re the third and subsequent child in a family receiving UCS, orunless you can prove you were raped to Baroness Davidson’s satisfaction, whom the Red Blue and Yellow Tories expect to beg for food in the street presumably, also talked of a ‘small minority’ of ‘fans’ celebrating in Glasgow (and Shankhill Road Belfast) while the ‘vast majority’ stayed at home.
      We get this ‘small minority’ ‘vast majority’ every time Rangers and Celtic psychopaths, and there are tens of thousands of them, go on their latest OBFA Free rampages.
      Gary Robertson even tried to blame the police for not stemming the flow of thousands of evil men and women, drunk, violent and destroying property, terrifying our citizens, and waving fascist banners and emblems as they reduced our city to a lawless hell.

      Willie Rennie and Alyson Johnstone tried to make political capital out of this evil cancer by demanding that our police officers should be vaccinated as a priority; so their solution to this anarchy is to make sure the polis don’t get Covid?
      Spoken by two fools who have never experienced this evil Rangers Celtic mob of thugs and hooligans.
      No sign of Steven Gerrard or the ‘Board’ on the telly today condemning their ‘small minority’?

      I am sick fed up of the Jock Brit Establishment using the low life blackshirts as an ominous threat to Scotland’s destiny. A government of the People, by the people, voted in by the people, and accountable to the people of Scotland.
      To run a Scottish Cup competition this year would be madness.

      There are tens of thousands of evil psychopaths in Scotland who rally around a common cause; death to the Papes/ Orangemen.

      There are quite simply tens of thousands of criminally insane nutters supporting these teams.
      Spare me the nonsense that both clubs are doing what they can to stamp it out. Are they feck.

      Like millions of my fellow Scots citizens, I would not shed a tear if they shut Ibrox and Parkhead for good.
      And I love football with a passion..
      Gary Robertson couldn’t find even one snap of the carnage in the BBC archives.
      The police could have done more, he argued.
      BBC Plantation Quay….cover up the Mighty Gers ‘small minority’ for the good of the Union?
      On the plus side…I’d imagine that many waverers will vote Yes next time.

      I doubt that Steven Gerrard will hang about now.
      Who could blame him?

      1. Stephen says:

        Not one mention of Celtic in the article, yet amazingly you’ve managed to spew your dated and wrong headed ‘two cheeks’ opinions all over it. Well done you.

  3. John Trainor says:

    Well said.

    Pity the Scottish media (and national media) choose to ignore the issue which has gotten worse since 2014 and now Brexit for fear of reduced viewing figures, circulation and most likely violence. Also no political party goes against the grain as this right wing populace make up the majority of voters, driven by hatred not social improvement or equality. The spirit of the empire and its racist superiority complex is alive and (un)well.

    1. James Mills says:

      I doubt that the majority in Scotland are ”right wing ” as you state – maybe in England , though I doubt that too , despite their voting patterns.

      The print media certainly appear complicit in NOT attacking the overwhelming sense of entitlement displayed by these thugs in football scarves . The modern day equivalent of Black Shirts ? Or is that too extreme ?

  4. Rocksie67 says:

    Very insightful article .Starting to get to the crux of the problem .Too many in Scottish Civic society close down debates on these issues by shouting sectarianism It’s just not the topic polite civic society wishes to discuss .At the same time many will comfort themselves with the delusion that Scotland is a modern progressive society completely ignoring the evidenve that Scotland has its very own significant fascist mob .
    As you write not all Rangers fans are right wing nutters but a significant section of people who attach themselves to the club hold racist and right wing views .
    The far right are emboldened by yesterday .If anyone thinks that Yes supporters will be able to overtake George Square during Indyref2 like we did during Indyref 1 they are deluded .
    Working on the same beliefs as Ernst Rohn and the brownshirts ,control the streets and you control the people ,this fascist mob will try to overtake George Square .
    One thing you can be assured of that when the inevitable clashes do occur the first group that the Police will turn their batons on will not be the Union Jack wavers

  5. Daniel Raphael says:

    Excellent, timely article; passed it along to a number of the usual suspects.

  6. Simon McLean says:

    Interesting and engaging, but as usual some basic simple truths are missing in order to extol a grand theory. The police could not plan for yesterday. Rangers weren’t playing, and unless we now expect them to be fortune tellers as well now, they could not roster hundreds of man hours on the off chance that Celtic would draw in Dundee. As a result their choices as to how to handle a quickly developing situation were very limited. You don’t start a battle you can’t be sure of winning.
    Now, what could have been foreseen was that the title was going to be clinched at some point, a choice of 2 or 3 scenarios, the very worst of which would have been at Parkhead in two weeks time. Yesterdays result was by far the best.
    So we have a Rangers support starved of any success for 10 years, stopping the march of their bitter rivals, and they’re all expected to stay at home and zoom each other? Give me a break. This could have been dealt with by opening part of Ibrox for an hour or so. Let them in wearing masks and let the players prance about for a while. This would have prevented much of the headlines and bad press that took up todays news pages. Maybe that didn’t suit. Where are our leaders when we need them?

    1. Thanks Simon, except that absolutely everyone new this was going to happen – it was widely shared on fans messageboards and discussed. Its inconceiveable that the police were unaware.

      They were not caught unawares.

      1. James Marshel says:

        It is an interesting conspiracy theory Mike and points to worrying implications regarding Scottish institutions. Maybe Eck is on to something!

    2. Glasgow Clincher says:

      Be careful ! That sounds dangerously like common sense.

  7. Brian MacLeod says:

    Simple answer to all this. Treat them as what they really are, terrorist organisations centred around sectarian hatred.

    Close them down.

  8. Pub Bore says:

    Thomas Jefferson is alleged to have said that “If I were to decide whether we should have a government without a press or a press without a government, I would have no hesitation in choosing the latter.” As well he might; for Jefferson the proper role of journalism as a democratic institution is to serve as a corrective to tyranny, revealing and openly reporting the abuse of power, both in government and in civil society.

    This role has always been under threat, never more so than today. Powerful people have always tried to harness and guide journalists for their own purposes. What is new and perhaps more threatening is the emergence of direct communication channels between the powerful and the powerless; communication that’s no longer mediated by the corrective of an independent fourth estate.

    Those who use social media channels professionally can use them to deliver their own agenda unfiltered and undisputed. All political parties and movements do this, and they do so primarily to stir up fears and spread lies or fake facts.

    This development has been aided and abetted by a number of factors:

    – decreasing editorial budgets in the independent media, which has led to a reduction in the numbers of editorial staff and thus to the restriction of independent research work

    – the rise in increasingly professional and well-funded communication channels among parties and political organisations

    – the ubiquity of social media channels, which present themselves as direct competition to independent journalism and are used by more and more people as a source of information, without recognising or, indeed, wanting to distinguish which of them is polemic, lies or falsified truth

    – the permanent attack on journalism from all sides with the aim of disavowing it as being controlled by elites

    Perhaps the most high profile example of the use of social media to stir-up hatred and deliver fake facts was Donald Trump, who spread lies and accusations every day on his Twitter channel and who, despite the obvious untruths, was believed by an incredible number of Americans. Trump, the consummate salesman, understood that ‘the truth’ is just what people want to believe and gave vast numbers of people just that: what they wanted to believe, unfiltered and undisputed by criticism, in all its uncorrected prejudice.

    When hundreds of thousands – indeed, millions – of people coalesce in solidarities around such affirmations of their existing prejudices, getting their news and information only from such affirmations, then those people soon begin to inhabit their own closed reality. In this reality, everything that is published or broadcast by the media that contradicts or otherwise challenges those prejudices is classified as untruth and an existential threat. In this reality, those who constitute it can no longer be reached by those who live outside it.

    This is a depressing prospect, for it would seem to render rational debate impossible and reduce politics to the spectacle of rival flag-waving camps, each locked in its own reality, shouting past one another in entrenched confrontation.

    But it’s a prospect that can be resisted. The fact that you’re reading this, and have continued to read it this far, suggests a willingness to doubt, to think rather than believe, to seek positive verification of the facts rather than lazy confirmation of what you’re already inclined to believe.

    People are getting wise. We’re slowly but surely getting tired of parties and demagogues flooding us with content that’s nothing more than opinion-making and has little in common with the world beyond prejudice.

    Let the watchword be “Aye, right!”

    1. John Learmonth says:

      Pub bore,
      A well argued piece for rule by an enlightened elite…..
      Plato would be proud of you as he was also fearfull of the ‘masses’ and their ‘prejudices’.
      In the meantime follow Hibs…..or Leeds.
      I have all my long life and so am used to dissappointment.

      1. Pub Bore says:

        Aye, right! And what ‘enlightened elite’ do you have in mind, whose claim to enlightenment could withstand the unremitting scrutiny of a sceptical demos?

  9. Dave the rave says:

    Seems to me like you’ve got a problem with anyone British, Orange, Protestant, anyone who voted No in 2014, voted for Brexit etc…if this had have been a bunch of Celtic fans with Palestinian flags, I’m sure youreresponse would have been very different.

    1. Glasgow Clincher says:

      Agree. There are extreme nutters on both sides but to make political capital out of this by resurrecting the Billy Boys suggests that the editor is hurting because his team lost. I await criticism of the Green Brigade singing that they hope Nacho Novo – a Spanish catholic – dies at the hands of the IRA.

      It’s a few football fans doing what Liverpool fans did when they won their title.

      As for Megan – there may well be racism at the heart of the Royal family but she has done a dis-service to those who have suffered real racism.

      1. I’m not a Celtic supporter.

    2. Celtic fans – or fans of any other football team in Scotland would not be allowed to behave like this

      1. Glasgow Clincher says:

        Sorry – that is blatantly untrue; they broke lockdown to call for the sacking of their manager. Difference being that their mood was hostile and could have led to serious trouble. I do think these flares should be banned somehow, though.

        1. Neill Óg says:

          Yes those fans broke lockdown to call for the manager and yes they were hostile but the crowd was relatively small and, as such, it was much easier to disperse and less costly. There was significant damage in the centre when there was no need to lead a march there. I understand the desire to enjoy the day and how important it was. I remember ’98 very well. It was notable that Police Scotland’s treatment of the fans was much more forgiving. It was also clear that the manner of the celebrations was triumphalist…but that should only be expected I guess

        2. They did and it was rightly condemned at the time. It’s not remotely comparable to taking over the city centre and getting. Police escort from Ibrox to George Square (!)

          1. Pub Bore says:

            Are you suggesting that the police should not have been in attendance?

          2. I’m struggling to imagine how you could think that? Maybe I’m missing something.

            No, I’m contrasting the police tactics of kettling peaceful protestors last year and dispersing them away from George Square with the examples shown on the article of actually escorting ‘fans’ into the city centre which not only facilitated a larger crowd but also had the ‘optics’ of looking like the police were giving them an official ‘escort’/endorsement.

          3. Pub Bore says:

            Right enough, I can see how it could be perceived that way.

            It would be interesting to see and compare the operational plans for the two events; then we could see, rather than speculate or spin, what the assumptions were behind the respective ways in which they were policed.

          4. Are you unaware of the two events?

          5. Pub Bore says:

            No, I remember both events. But I remain unaware of the assumptions that informed the tactics of their respective policings.

            You seem to be asserting that the policing of the triumphalist celebrations of the Rangers fans was informed by some collusion and complicity with a darker aspect of those celebrations (their ‘occult’ meaning). I’ve seen no evidence of such collusion and complicity, just surmise.

      2. John Mooney says:

        Mike,is it not amazing that the apologists for the neanderthal hooligans that trashed George Square post their comments under gutless nom de plumes,says more about them than they realise,gutless and pathetic individuals,so sad!

      3. J Galt says:

        Nor indeed peaceful anti-lockdown protesters outside Holyrood the day before – arrests and intimidation for them, selfies and kid gloves for the rangers mob.

  10. florian albert says:

    I am not a fan of the leadership in Scotland’s police force, However, on this occasion, I have some sympathy with them. Dispersing a crowd – the traditional thing to do – is far from easy. Smart phones allow groups to re-assemble at short notice. You move them out of George Square and they gather again in Buchanan Street – 300 metres away.

    Police could use a more ‘heavy handed’ approach but I doubt that there is much appetite for mass arrests for people celebrating a football team’s victory. You would then get complaints that other groups were not subject to mass arrests.

    Having been in George Square today, there is little evidence of what happened at the weekend. There are still about 40 benches there and I would guess that another 10 have been taken away after being damaged.

  11. Pub Bore says:

    The battle for George Square was a stirring act of civil disobedience by working-class people, which the authorities policed as best they could. The only problem seems to be that the action was taken under the ‘wrong’ flag. Had this been a spontaneous mass action in support of Independence rather than in celebration of Glasgow Rangers’ league win and all it signifies for that club’s supporters, then I suspect everything would be fine and dandy.

    1. J Galt says:

      Indeed, it was in reality a cultural event celebrating the rich religious and sporting diversity of Glasgow – perhaps they should apply for an arts grant next time.

      1. James Mills says:

        Well , Glasgow Labour leaders saw this fine group of people as deserving recognition a few years ago . They helped organise a much appreciated Orange Fest with all that that tradition embodied .
        The gods , however , were not so forgiving as it p*shed down all day . The resultant spectacle of running orange dye down sad , wee faces was almost pitiful !

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Aye, well; you’re perfectly entitled to disapprove.

      2. Pub Bore says:

        Naw ‘n’ it wisnae; it was a partisan event, in which a community of interest celebrated an achievement and all that it signifies for its members. George Square is where such communities traditionally rally when they’ve got something to celebrate.

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