Police chiefs have warned “many more arrests will follow” after Rangers fans attacked each other and threw missiles at officers as they celebrated their team’s first premiership trophy in a decade.
At least three officers were injured – one suffering a serious face wound – while trying to marshal ranks of unruly fans in Glasgow city centre on Saturday evening, and more than 20 people have been arrested so far.
Thousands defied Covid-19 warnings against large gatherings and massed in George Square to celebrate Rangers winning their first Scottish Premiership championship since 2011, setting off fireworks and flares and drinking in the street.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon condemned the “disgraceful scenes” and sectarian chanting among the crowd, adding: “To say I’m utterly disgusted by the Rangers fans who rampaged through the city would be an understatement.”
Footage on social media showed packs of flag-draped fans attacking each other, and launching traffic cones, plastic bollards and other missiles at lines of riot gear-clad police officers.
Images showed George Square strewn with hundreds of broken bottles, plastic bags and spent flares after crowds were moved out of the area at around 9pm.
An accident and emergency department source told the PA news agency one man came into hospital “missing half his hand” after a firework he was holding blew up.
Police Scotland described some fans’ behaviour as “disgraceful”.
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie said: “I recognise that Rangers fans would have wanted to celebrate their club’s success on Saturday and it was anticipated that crowds would congregate.
“Police Scotland, our partners and Rangers Football Club had all asked fans not to gather and to take personal responsibility for their actions.
“But 15,000 people chose to ignore that and took the selfish decision to gather at Ibrox and then George Square, and a robust partnership response plan was implemented to manage them.
“There is no easy way to stop that number of people who are intent on coming into a city from doing so without causing significant disruption to everyone else.
“Our policing approach will always be to manage a crowd in a situation like this, and minimise disruption to the wider public, while keeping everyone safe.
“The gathering was initially peaceful and throughout the day Police Scotland managed the crowd appropriately, tackling anti-social behaviour and encouraging dispersal under Scottish Government Coronavirus regulations.
“However, later the crowd in the square became aggressive and violent, fighting with each other, as the effects of alcohol took hold.
“At this point, public order officers moved in to break up the crowd and make them disperse. They began to throw missiles at us and five officers were injured, which is unacceptable. No one should expect to be assaulted when they go to their work.
“Policing a situation like this requires balance and a proportionate response. The level of force we use is dictated by the actions of the crowd. Sending in public order officers too early, particularly when a crowd is largely peaceful, can have the opposite effect and actually trigger violence and disorder.
“I strongly condemn the behaviour of these supporters who not only placed our officers at risk but damaged the image and reputation of Glasgow, especially during this critical period of the pandemic.
“I would like to place on record my thanks to the officers of Police Scotland, especially those who put themselves in danger. Throughout the day, the police operation was professional and proportionate. I also want to thank the paramedics and firefighters who responded to this incident.
“So far 28 people have been arrested for a variety of offences but we will be continuing our enquiries and my message is clear that if you have been involved in these ugly scenes then you will be identified and arrested.”
Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland, the divisional commander for Greater Glasgow, said in a statement: “Our officers became the focus of the crowd’s attention with missiles and flares being thrown at them.
“Although most of those present dispersed, a number remained and confronted officers with violence and aggression.
“Missiles were thrown and officers came under direct attack as George Square and the surrounding area was cleared.”
Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said on Twitter that “many more arrests will follow in the coming weeks”.
Ms Sturgeon said on Twitter: “In normal times, the violence & vandalism, and the vile anti Catholic prejudice that was on display, would have been utterly unacceptable. But mid-pandemic, in a city with cases on the rise, it was also selfish beyond belief.
“People across the country still living under the most difficult restrictions – not able to see family or attend weddings and funerals – are rightly furious at the irresponsible actions of a thuggish minority who seem to care little for the risks they pose to other people.”
Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said on Sunday it was “disgraceful” that officers were subject to “the kind of thuggery we saw last night”.
He tweeted: “Incidents of violence, disorder, anti-Catholic & any other hatred will be followed up.”
Rangers defeated Aberdeen 4-0 at Ibrox before collecting the Scottish Premiership silverware. Fans had been warned against gathering to celebrate due to rising Covid-19 cases in Glasgow.
However, thousands of supporters outside Ibrox were cheering and chanting as the Rangers players arrived for the 12.30pm kick-off, before marching into the heart of the city after the game.
On Friday night, scores of Rangers fans lit red flares simultaneously along the River Clyde in the city as they marked the end of the season.
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