22 January 2006

Bloody Sunday marchers attacked

Sunday Herald

By Paul Delgarno
22 January 2006

ELEVEN people were arrested after 400 protesters attempted to charge an Irish Republican march in Glasgow yesterday morning.

More than 1000 people took part in the Cairde na hÉireann (Friends of Ireland) parade through the centre of the city to mark the anniversary of the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry in 1972.

As the procession reached the city’s George Square, around 400 protesters threw lighters and bottles at the march ers from behind police lines.

Despite warnings from Strathclyde Police for troublemakers to stay away, the scenes mirrored those at last year’s parade, during which three people were arrested.

March organiser Jim Slaven said the police’s approach in the lead-up to the march had contributed to the unrest.

“We saw people on the march suffering abuse and incredible provocation,” he said.

“We’ve been asking for people in positions of responsibility to try and calm the situation around this issue, but we think the police have done the opposite.”

Fellow marcher Jean Cairns, from Cardonald in the south of Glasgow, said she had considered bringing her family on the march but felt intimidated from the start.

“I don’t know why there was such a big police presence,” she said. “It was meant to be a peaceful march to commemorate what happened in Ireland. I just don’t get why the police have saturated it.”

Bloody Sunday campaigner Gerry Duddy, who spoke at a rally after the parade, said the violence had detracted from the true message of the day. He pointed to the publication later this year of the Saville Report into the deaths of 14 men and boys on Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972.

“We expect the report to state clearly that the British soldiers committed murder on the streets of Derry,” he said. “Receptions like the one we got going past George Square will never cease to amaze me.”

Strathclyde police confirmed there was an “element of organisation” to the counter-protest, but could not comment on claims that the protesters were linked to the British National Party or the Scottish Orange Order.

Assistant chief constable Kevin Smith added that many of the marchers had antagonised protesters in George Square.

“Unfortunately, but expectedly, racist and sectarian abuse was evident,” he said. “Had it not been for the significant police presence, there would have been much more serious disorder and disruption to the parade.”

He confirmed that officers had dealt with incidents such as missile-throwing and that arrests had been made for breach of the peace, assault and possession of a knife.

A parades review, carried out by former Strathclyde Police chief constable Sir John Orr last year, recommended that a march should be banned if it gave a risk of intimidation to the local community or of serious disruption.

Spokespeople for the British National Party and the Scottish Orange Order denied any involvement in the protests.

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