Thu 25 Jun, 2020

Police Scotland should reappraise its approach to policing protests and reflect after events in Glasgow in recent days, according to the Scottish Greens. 

In a letter to Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendren, Divisional Commander for Greater Glasgow, Glasgow MSP Patrick Harvie and Councillor Kim Long raise concerns about the policing of protests in the city and in particular the anti-racism protest on Saturday 20th June.

In their letter Mr Harvie and Ms Long highlight that different policing techniques have been deployed in recent weeks noting that there appears, “to have been very different approaches taken to protests at different times in recent weeks. There is a strong impression that a lower-key approach has been taken to the protests by far right and loyalist groups than was taken in relation to Saturday’s anti-racism demonstration.”

It goes on, “the perception that right wing groups have not been curtailed in the same way as anti-racist and anti-fascist protestors is most troubling. Glasgow has a long track record of peaceful anti-racist protest expressing values that our whole society, including Police Scotland, should share. This could hardly be less true of the far right.” 

The correspondence notes specific concerns about the treatment experienced by different groups, “On Wednesday 17th June a planned protest by a group of asylum seekers against their living conditions, which had already been re-scheduled from Sat 13th due to an assembly of people whose stated aim was to oppose Black Lives Matter protests, was disrupted by members of the far-right National Defence League. It is our understanding that Police Scotland did not curtail the space taken by the far-right group or attempt to disband their protest. When the End Hotel Detention demonstration arrived at the square however, they were contained by Police Scotland into a smaller space, too small for physical distancing, which left the rest of the square for the right wing demonstrators.”

The letter concludes noting the responsibly of the police to build trust with communities, “We hope that you will agree that Police Scotland has a responsibility to build trust with the public, even more so at this difficult time when extraordinary measures have been taken. There is ample evidence from elsewhere in the UK and other countries that a heavy-handed or uneven approach to policing peaceful protest, especially where the motivation for that protest is something as necessary as anti-racism, is counterproductive and could exacerbate the risk of conflict.”

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