As a member of Fans Against Criminalisation the Green Brigade are fully committed to highlighting, challenging and tackling the systemised campaign of criminalisation and harassment – orchestrated by the Scottish Government and implemented by Police Scotland – against the Celtic support.
At the risk of covering old ground, the Scottish Government are responsible for drafting and implementing a ridiculous piece of legislation which, through their own admission, aims to make the arrest figures between both sides of the Glasgow divide even – regardless of the act or crime in question. In practice, for the Celtic support this has resulted in expressions of Irish identity, culture and politics being deemed illegal.
One prominent example is the criminalisation of the song ‘Roll of Honour’ which is a lament commemorating ten Irish martyrs who died on hunger strike in Long Kesh in 1981. These men died primarily fighting the criminalisation of themselves and their struggle in a bid to be recognised as political prisoners. Now, in Scotland, it is deemed illegal to remember and honour their sacrifice. The number of fans being charged for doing so continually rises as Police Scotland continues to film and harass our support at every turn.
On Saturday 23rd November we highlighted the sheer hypocrisy of the legislation with a simple banner display. On the 10th minute and 81st minute a banner of the letter H was unveiled while ‘Roll of Honour’ was sung. Alongside this banner appeared two further banners containing the following lyric from the Scottish national anthem: ‘they fought and died for; their wee bit hill and glen’.
Similarly, on Tuesday 26th November we unveiled another banner display to further our point and emphasise the Scottish Government’s hypocrisy. At this match two banners depicting a Scottish and an Irish freedom fighter were shown along with the slogan: ‘the terrorist or the dreamer; the savage of the brave? Depends whose vote you’re trying to catch or whose face you’re trying to save’. The statement being made was that it is both hypocritical and discriminatory to celebrate the Scottish nationalist struggle while criminalising the Irish nationalist struggle. Ultimately, due to the subjective nature of what anyone may deem ‘offensive’, it is both dangerous and absurd to create a law based upon offensiveness.
The Green Brigade are disappointed by the statement made by Celtic Football Club in regards to this incident. The Club’s statement claims that we assured them that our display would be purely football related but that in fact it had nothing to do with football. In reality however what was assured to them was that our plans were completely relative to Celtic and indeed football. Given that it is Celtic fans who are filling up prison cells and court rooms because of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, and the manner in which it criminalises legitimate expression of political opinion, this display could not have been more relevant in the current context. The fans are the lifeblood of any football club and to deem fan issues as irrelevant is frankly disgraceful.
While we understand and sympathise fully with fans who may disagree with the timing of last night’s display we are honest enough to admit that the timing was of no coincidence. This act has been in place for over 18 months yet the club have offered next to no support to the fans on this matter. As a group we were told that Celtic Football Club would publicly support the fans on this issue. Regrettably, this has not transpired in spite of the fact that public pressure could have had a telling impact on the Justice Committee as they discussed the possibility of an early review of the act.
It is our opinion that the level of apathy from Celtic PLC towards the criminalisation of their supporters is unforgivable. We find their accusation of the Green Brigade disrespecting the club to be completely ironic and totally laughable when we consider the level of disrespect they have repeatedly shown to their supporters for far too long – never mind the desecrating of our Club’s proud history and values with the firm objection to implementing the ‘living wage’.
Whilst the Club may wish to wash their hands of pressing fan issues we will not falter in our attempts to challenge the injustice of this legislation nor how Police Scotland implements it. As the number of Celtic fans banned from games continues to grow and the court cases and all additional baggage piles up we will stand by them, we will stand with the Celtic support and as always we will defend our right to cultural and political expression.
Until the last rebel