Police in Glasgow launched a huge security operation yesterday to prevent clashes between Republican marchers and rival Loyalist counter-demonstrators.
At least 500 officers were on the streets, with one injured when he was hit by a firework. There were 10 arrests, including two for carrying offensive weapons, and the remainder for public order offences and sectarian breaches of the peace.
Police said 1000 marchers and protesters were in the city and, at one point, officers raced down St Vincent Street when hooligans dressed wearing balaclavas attempted to disrupt a march, organised by Friends of The Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA).
Security was ramped up after ugly scenes in Glasgow’s Govan last Friday when riot police, mounted officers, a helicopter and dog units were called in to deal with a clash between Republicans and Loyalists. Yesterday’s first parade, organised by Cairde na hEireann, left the city’s Calton area at 2pm, flanked by more than 200 police officers, some with body armour and helmets.
A police helicopter followed the march, which took more than an hour to reach the La Pasionaria statue in Clyde Street on the Broomielaw.
A Loyalist counter-demonstration nearby was kettled – surrounded by police officers – to prevent the two groups clashing. Both Republicans and Loyalists dispersed before a second procession by a separate Republican group set off from Blythswood Square around 4pm. Police held up the second parade, due to begin at 3pm, to prevent the groups meeting.
Fireworks were set off on George V Bridge as the second march made its way along Clydeside. The group reached Barrowlands Park at 5.30pm.
Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said: “The majority of those who took part in the processions listened to us and complied with our instructions. A significant number of those who attended as part of the counter-protests were intent on stopping the processions from taking place but were prevented from doing so by prompt and decisive police action.
“I am, however, disgusted at the recklessness and stupidity of those who decided to throw pyrotechnics, one of which injured an officer.
“He was simply carrying out a duty that allows us to facilitate people’s rights and ultimately we were here today to keep everybody safe. We will be supporting him and his colleagues as he recovers and will continue in our work to trace those responsible.”
The cost of policing the events is believed to be upwards of £40,000.
One of the organisers of the IRPWA march said: “I’d like to thank Glasgow City Council for not bowing down to mob rule and allowing today to go ahead.”
The council came under fire for allowing the processions after a march organised by the James Connolly Republican Flute Band on August 30 was disrupted by Loyalists.
Missiles were thrown, opposing groups clashed and flares were lit in scenes described by Nicola Sturgeon as “utterly unacceptable”. On Thursday she said the Scottish Government was considering changing the law to tackle the “scourge” of sectarianism.