Celtic FC’s Green Brigade are victims of the war on free speech
THE Sun repeats the claim that PC Tommy McCrindle has been banned from policing Celtic fans. He is alleged to have written on his Facebook page (now deleted): “Fume-a-Pest & Termite Control.” Likening Celtic fans to rats and fleas is not on. McCrindle’s alleged words were further broadcast by the Green Brigade, avid Celtic fans who sit in block 111 at the Parkhead ground and give full throat to their Irish republican sympathies with singing, banners and clothing. They bring colour and atmosphere to the ground.
On the Celtic Ultras’ website, the Green Brigade claim to be victims of police harassment:
Towards the end of 2012, the Green Brigade announced a two-match boycott of Celtic Park due to the continued police harassment of our members. We hoped to highlight the extent of our ill-treatment and perhaps force the police into a re-think regarding their bully boy tactics. Sadly the harassment has actually worsened since then, leading up to the events of yesterday which left the group with little choice but to leave the stadium before kick-off.
It has reached the stage where our very existence is under serious threat as fans will not continue to pay £500+ to be treated like criminals.
Celtic supporters have the same police officers following them week in, week out. This allows them to become familiar with the names and faces of our fans. It would appear that they use this familiarity to try to intimidate us even further. Simple things like name-dropping partner’s names or family members’ names has become an all too common theme. It’s all part of the bullying nature of this unit. The aforementioned McCrindle actually has on his social networking site that his job description is “full-time Fume-a-pest & termite control.”
Some members are followed by the same policeman each week at and around games, and some officers even namedrop Green Brigade family members in front of the fans as part of an attempt to intimidate them. Arrests have been made at workplaces and at airports as families arrive home from holiday, presumably for the added effect this has on the individual, their families and even their job prospects. Many of these arrests lead nowhere and the cases are quickly dropped; others go further but are eventually thrown out of court. As this week’s Green Brigade statement notes, ‘It has now gotten to the stage whereby members of our group live in constant fear of the police showing up at their homes or workplaces with a trumped-up charge, or to be told that they are banned from football matches as they approach the gates of 111’ (the section the Green Brigade sits in).
If all true, it’s grim. The Green Brigade are not hooligans, no Headhunters or ICF. But they are in breech of the Offensive Behaviour Act:
The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 14th December 2011 and will be enacted on 1st March 2012. The Act criminalises behaviour which is threatening, hateful or otherwise offensive at a regulated football match including offensive singing or chanting. It also criminalises the communication of threats of serious violence and threats intended to incite religious hatred, whether sent through the post or posted on the internet. The Act will only criminalise behaviour likely to lead to public disorder which expresses or incites hatred, is threatening or is otherwise offensive to a reasonable person.
Offensive singing at the ground is banned. But whose offended? The Act then tells us:
The offence will NOT:
Stop peaceful preaching or proselytising.
Restrict freedom of speech including the right to criticise or comment on religion or non-religious beliefs, even in harsh terms.
Criminalise jokes and satire about religion or non-religious belief.
But it does restrict free speech. That is one of thing it does most definitely do.
The Green Brigade are being harassed, as they claim, for singing songs the rule makers don’t like. They are the wrong songs. If you sing any “wrong” song at a Scottish football ground you can be arrested. Given that the aim of songs is to either to a) rouse your team; b) do down the opposition, roughly half of all football songs could cause offence.
If you don’t comply, then you’re a pest. The officer was, allegedly, only showing that he agrees with the elite. He is their enforcer, after all…
Here a few Celtic banners that could now get you arrested.
PS – Your club’s next.