Protesters converge on George Square despite police warnings

Protesters have gathered in Glasgow city centre despite being warned by police to stay away.

Organisers said the Glasgow Says No to Racism event is aimed at “sending a positive anti-racist message from Glasgow’s George Square to the world on World Refugee Day”.

Supporters include Stand Up To Racism, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, Positive Action in Housing, Afghan Human Rights Foundation and unions.

Attendees were asked to wear masks, adhere to two-metre distancing rules and not to travel farther than public health advice allows.

Police vans lined the square with more than 100 officers in attendance, including riot police and mounted officers.

Arrivals included members of the Green Brigade, linked to Celtic ultras.

Police horses and riot officers were used to control their arrival in the square.

Loyalists and members of a far-right group announced online on Friday night that they plan to head to the square to “protect statues”.

On Friday night, Police Scotland, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and the head of Glasgow City Council called on the public not to gather at the location.

Clashes have broken out over recent weeks at the square, including violent scenes from a far-right group on Wednesday.

Chief superintendent Hazel Hendren, divisional commander of Greater Glasgow, said on Friday evening: “Please do not come to George Square tomorrow.

“The lockdown restrictions remain in place and people should leave their homes only for very limited purposes.

“Anyone who wants to protest should find another way of doing so that keeps everyone safe.”

She added: “We continue to work with partners, including Glasgow City Council, to keep our streets safe for everyone.

“The disgraceful scenes we have witnessed in George Square are completely unacceptable and a robust policing response is in place for anyone intent on causing violent disruption.”

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

Far-right loyalists targeted a rally calling for improved living conditions for refugees.

Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins said on Thursday that Police Scotland is “absolutely committed to respecting people’s rights to freely and peacefully express their views”.

Mr Yousaf tweeted: “Msg from Scot Govt, Glasgow CC & Police completely aligned – mass outdoor gatherings are unlawful, if you attend you are risking your health & of the health of those you love.

“If you participate in disorder expect to be arrested & spend time in a custody cell.”

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said: “Please do not come to George Square tomorrow – you will put yourself and others at risk.

“We are at a crucial point in our journey out of lockdown and it remains the case that it is still not safe to gather in large crowds.

“I understand that many will want to make their voices heard. But, for now, I urge you to find alternative means of doing so.”

She added: “In normal times, everyone has a right to protest lawfully.

“It is a bedrock of our democracy and a proud tradition in Glasgow.

“But just now, just for this short time, please stay safe, keep others safe and stay away.”

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