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GLASGOW police were accused of using “heavy-handed” tactics against peaceful anti-racist protesters on Saturday, after hundreds were surrounded using “kettle” tactics and forced to break social distancing.
The protest was organised by Stand up to Racism to “take back St George’s Square” after far-right groups had attacked a previous demonstration by asylum-seekers at the site last Wednesday.
More than 1,500 people gathered in the city centre from 10.30am to hear rousing speeches by Black Lives Matter campaigners, trade unionists and politicians.
Human rights activist and child detention ambassador Pina Aksu told crowds: “We are united here today to say this is our street. There is no place for racists and fascists.”
A small group of around 40 loyalists were seen at the back of the square, but they left after seeing the number of anti-racist protesters.
The peaceful rally passed without incident until shortly after midday when people started to leave the square to go home.
At this point, large numbers of police who had been standing at the fringes unexpectedly moved in and pushed together hundreds of demonstrators, including children, trade unionists and a priest, in a tight formation known as a kettle.
It appeared that the tactic was used without provocation.
The kettled protesters were eventually released one-by-one around an hour later, after they were marched out of the square and towards the Trongate.
The shock move undermined organisers’ efforts to maintain social distancing during the protest, with crosses marked out on the floor and stewards making constant checks.
Greater Glasgow Police said the tactic was used because officers had “identified a group as football supporters, who we believed posed a threat to public safety.”
However Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly told the Morning Star he had been contacted by constituents who were “very concerned” about the “heavy-handed policing,” at the protest.
“People have specifically queried why the protesters were ‘kettled’ by the police,” he said. “I will be raising these concerns directly with the police.”
Green councillor Kim Long also said she would be raising questions about the actions of the police.
Morning Star Scotland editor Niall Christie, who was covering Saturday’s protest, said officers repeatedly attempted to disrupt journalists. He was also told to stop filming the kettle.
Kettling of Black Lives Matter protesters was criticised early this month after the Metropolitan Police used the tactic in London.
Civil rights group Liberty branded the tactic “aggressive” and said its use was “even more concerning” during a pandemic.
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