Thursday, 20 February 2014

Standing shoulder to shoulder against the criminalisation of football fans

In 2012 ‘The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act’ was passed. Since then Strathclyde Police and now Police Scotland have been using their new power to build cases against football fans. Under the new legislation any action within a football stadium that may cause offence to someone may be treated as a criminal act. Although this sounds absurd, bordering on laughable, this is a very serious issue illustrated by the house raids, arrests and prosecution of Celtic fans who now face the possibility of jail time if found guilty. This should concern any citizens in Scotland who value their right to freedom of speech and right to protest. These rights are something that the working classes have had to struggle for, over hundreds of years, and we should vigorously resist this attempt to erode them.

The Celtic fans facing trial are accused of singing of a song called ‘The Roll of Honour’ which was written by the band The Irish brigade in 1982.  The band have opposed any attempts to slander the song as racist or offensive stating;

‘the roll of honour was written at a time of great social and political upheaval in the North of Ireland. It was to commemorate the sacrifice of ten young men who died in the Hunger Strike of 1981. The song was a reflection of the thoughts, feelings and beliefs, held by many in Ireland and throughout the world who felt that these deaths could have been avoided if the British Government at that time had not taken such a harsh and unbending attitude towards the prison crisis. The line ‘England, you’re a Monster’ is figurative language and is a reference to this belief. The word ‘Monster’ is defined as someone ‘unnaturally cruel’ – the Government at that time. It is not or was not, at any time, to be construed as referring to the English Nation or the people of England, it is not a racist remark’. 

In response to the legislation and prosecutions a group called Fans Against Criminalisation has been formed by Celtic supporters to campaign against the criminalisation of football fans. FAC recently held a well organised leafleting session in the area surrounding Celtic park before the match on Saturday 8 February in order to publicise the re-release of ‘The Roll of Honour’ song on iTunes in protest against the prosecutions. On 16 February the single reached number 33 in the official UK top forty singles chart showing that there is widespread opposition to this attempt to criminalise the content of the song and to prosecute Celtic supporters for singing it.

‘The Roll of Honour’ song is neither racist nor is it sectarian and in fact carries many similarities to the National anthem of Scotland (Flower of Scotland) in its opposition to national oppression and foreign occupation. Up to this point no one has been charged for singing ‘The Flower of Scotland’ nor do we expect them to be. This once again highlights that anti-Irish racism is alive and well in Scottish society; on the street and in the establishment. If you sing a song about Scottish nationalism it’s okay you’re only being patriotic but dare mention Ireland’s politics or nationalism and you’re a criminal. ‘The Roll of Honour is an Irish political song. Under this legislation a potential sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment faces those who sing it in football stadiums.

The Glasgow Defence Campaign calls on everyone to stand shoulder to shoulder against this injustice and we call for organisation and mobilisation against this sectarian legislation. We send our support both to those facing prosecution and to those who are organising in defence of them.

Unity is our key to victory!
All power to the people!

Danny McGarrell

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