Police and council block SDL’s Pollokshields protest

SDL Glasgow February 2012(2)Authorities are to move against a planned weekend march by the far-right Scottish Defence League amid police concerns of serious public disorder and the impact on community relations.

The group, a fringe organisation that opposes what it considers to be a spread of Islam, has applied to parade through one of Scotland’s most multicultural areas to commemorate the birthday of Kriss Donald, the teenager who was murdered by an Asian gang almost a decade ago.

But Police Scotland said the planned march through Glasgow’s Pollokshields area “might reasonably be believed to be intended to be provocative to the Muslim community”, falling as it does in Ramadan.

At meetings with the police and Glasgow City Council it has also emerged that rather than discussing the parade as a “memorial event” the SDL said they “would go to where there was a problem and mentioned Asian gangs and the raping of young girls”.

A report on Saturday’s planned event claims that policing it would require a substantial deployment of resources including specialist public order officers for around 50 demonstrators, half the number the SDL, an offshoot of the English Defence League, said would take part.

Objecting to the event, Police Scotland said: “The presence of the SDL in Glasgow provides a significant risk of serious public disorder breaking out and as a consequence, serious disruption to the life of the community.

“Police Scotland strongly opposes any proposal for the SDL to hold a procession in Glasgow due to this significant threat to public safety and disorder. This threat is heightened by this proposal for a procession within Pollokshields. Police Scotland is concerned this proposal might reasonably be believed to be intended to be provocative to the large Muslim community and as a consequence will provoke a counter demonstration of significant numbers.”

The council report adds: “It is the view of council officers that the level of disruption which will or may be caused by this procession and any counter protest is far greater than the right of free assembly and accordingly it is necessary to place proportionate restrictions on the proposed procession to seek to mitigate the impact.”

The council is unlikely to ban the parade outright and may attempt to move it to a different location on another date. Alternative arrangements are expected to be thrashed out tomorrow.

Discussions have taken place between the SDL and Police Scotland, with a static protest suggested for Queens Park several hundred yards away. But this was rejected, with the police concerned about an SDL event in that area due to the ethnic mix in the nearby Govanhill area.

The SDL proposed a march through the city centre but this was refused as it would go through pedestrianised areas, while a parade to Glasgow Green, where 
it would disperse after a short rally, was also rejected by Police Scotland following a safety and risk assessment. A static event at Glasgow Green was refused by the SDL.

Both the police and council reference previous SDL events in Glasgow. The last time the group entered the Pollokshields area it descended into chaos, with mounted police, helicopters and scores of officers deployed in the area, home to Scotland’s largest Asian community, despite a ­maximum of 10 members of the SDL turning up.

Police Scotland said the event “had a significant and serious disruptive effect on the life of the community, impacted on relations among local residents and the relationship of the local community with the police”.

It also said that “in response to the emerging heightened community tensions” it would “provide a policing response in relation to public confidence and reassurance during this period of uncertainty whereby the local community are concerned of the outcome of the proposals”.

The force added: “Community information provides that local people are very anxious regarding any procession and have intimated to the police any activity by the SDL or any counter demonstration is unwelcome within the community. It should also be considered that the date selected is during the period of Ramadan.”

A council spokesman said: “The original proposals raised some very serious concerns for public safety and, despite talking to organisers for a number of weeks, we have not yet been able to negotiate an alternative.”

The Herald, 24 July 2013

See also “Successful meetings in Scotland before SDL march”, UAF news report, 24 July 2013