Thuggery will no longer be tolerated, police say

Police have claimed “violence and thuggery” will no longer be tolerated after far-right groups targeted peaceful protesters in Glasgow.

At least six people were arrested on Wednesday following scenes labelled “disgraceful” by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Far-right loyalists targeted a rally in the city’s George Square which was calling for improved living conditions for refugees.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said Police Scotland will provide a “robust response” to any such disorder across the country.

His comments come after the Scottish Police Federation said nationalists, unionists, “statue wreckers and statue protectors” are as guilty as each other when it comes to protests during the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Higgins said: “What we saw last night was people intent on hijacking a peaceful event and intent on violence and thuggery.

“It is completely and utterly unacceptable and we will not tolerate these scenes any longer, including attacks both physical and verbal on the public and our officers.

“My message to those who have been involved in the disgraceful scenes witnessed over the last couple of weeks is that if you continue to behave like this, then be prepared to be arrested.

“We have no tolerance any longer. There is no place for it in Glasgow or anywhere else in Scotland. It doesn’t reflect the Scottish society in which we live.

“We’re working very closely with partners and with event organisers to ask what they want to achieve.

“But if other people come out to hijack a peaceful event for other purposes then we will put in a very robust policing response.”

Demonstrators were escorted from the scene by police on Wednesday evening (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mass gatherings are currently unlawful and put lives at risk, the statement said.

Scottish Police Federation chairman David Hamilton said events “over the weekends of June 6 and 13” – which saw Black Lives Matter protests and a gathering of people purporting to protect statues in Glasgow’s George Square – and Wednesday night’s disorder have “laid in tatters any suggestion that non-compliance with the coronavirus restrictions is a serious issue”.

He added: “When our politicians fail to condemn the actions of those who defy the law, we cannot be surprised that it is increasingly difficult for police officers to enforce the law.

“The public cannot expect the police service to turn a blind eye to those who break the law in the name of a particular cause whilst demanding different treatment for opponents.

“There is no moral high ground to be claimed. Right or left; green or blue; unionist or nationalist; statue wrecker or statue protector, your side is as guilty as the other.”

📣Joint statement from Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf (@ScotGovJustice) and Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken on disorder in Glasgow, George Square.

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— Glasgow City Council #StayHome (@GlasgowCC) June 18, 2020

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said there was “no moral equivalence” between the two groups at Wednesday’s clash.

Their statement read: “The racist and thuggish behaviour we witnessed last night was not peaceful protest, it was organised violence and disorder designed to intimidate.

“There is no moral equivalence between those demanding equality and better support and services for asylum seekers and those intent on violence, racism and disorder.

“The message is clear, if you are involved in violence, racism and disorder you will face the full force of the law.”

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