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Justice Secretary questioned over policing of Green Brigade protest

The parliamentary question came after the incident on Saturday in Glasgow.

Green Brigade detained near Gallowgate in Glasgow ahead of Celtic match with Aberdeen on March 16 2013

The Justice Secretary has been questioned over "concerns" about the policing of a protest by Celtic 'ultras' the Green Brigade.

On Saturday, the supporters’ group held a protest against what it perceived as "harassment" of its members by Strathclyde Police following the introduction of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act.

During the procession, which the police deemed "illegal", around 200 officers kettled a group of the Celtic supporters as they made their way from the Gallowgate area of Glasgow to Parkhead for the SPL tie against Aberdeen.

On Tuesday Michael McMahon, Labour MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill, asked Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill about "recent reports expressing concern at the police handling of unauthorised protests."

Mr MacAskill told the member that "Strathclyde Police would be happy to brief any elected member on recent events, which may give a more accurate picture of all the circumstances" while he highlighted the fact that the Green Brigade had not received permission from Glasgow City Council to stage the procession.

Mr McMahon asked the SNP member whether the parade was as a result of "raising tensions" among football fans through the introduction of the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football Act last year. Mr MacAskill stated that as far as he was aware none of the charges made against members involved in the protest were made under the act.

Thirteen members of the Green Brigade were arrested during the protest, with five reported to the procurator fiscal and the remaining eight released on an undertaking to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court at a later date, with alleged offences including breach of the peace, police assault, resisting arrest and misuse of drugs.

Celtic released a statement on Monday night which said it was "very concerned to see imagery of Saturday’s march by members of the Green Brigade from Gallowgate to Celtic Park, and subsequent claims by supporters of police harassment and heavy-handed policing."

The Glasgow club also confirmed it had written to Strathclyde Police acting Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan requesting a full report on the protest at the weekend.

Inquiry call

Mr McMahon confirmed he had met Strathclyde Police over the incident and called for Mr MacAskill to set up an "independent investigation" into the policing deployed, which he felt could cause "shock and alarm in the chamber".

The Justice Secretary told the MSP: "Michael McMahon did the right thing by seeking to speak to a senior police officer in Strathclyde.

"If he still has concerns, he should raise them with Campbell Corrigan, the Chief Constable, and if he is not satisfied by that, he can raise them with the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland or, when it moves, the police investigations and review commissioner."

Gildeas Solicitors, which represents the Green Brigade, said it had received queries from people seeking to complain over the treatment of the football fans during the incident. The legal firm also expressed its concerns over the policing after images and videos of it were shared on social media.

As a result of the incident involving the ultras, who describe themselves as a "a broad front of anti-fascist, anti-racist and anti-sectarian Celtic supporters", Glasgow SNP Councillor David McDonald stated on Twitter that he would be "writing a letter of complaint to Strathclyde Police" over their policing methods.

Police claimed the crowd of Celtic supporters were "instructed that any procession on the road was illegal but that officers would facilitate a safe and orderly procession on the pavements toward their intended destination at Celtic Park."

A spokeswoman added: "However, this was ignored and more officers were deployed as the crowd became increasingly confrontational and aggressive. The situation was contained a short time later."

In response to allegations of heavy-handed policing, a force spokeswoman said: "Any accusations regarding the police response to the illegal procession on Saturday, March 16, in the Gallowgate are completely inaccurate. Having reviewed the footage senior officers are entirely satisfied that the officers on the ground dealt with the situation in an professional and proportionate way. Indeed, officers showed great restraint given the level of aggression and abuse they received.

"We are disappointed that a number of high profile individuals have chosen to criticise our actions in the media before approaching us to discuss the police response. We would be happy to make this footage public were it not for the fact that 13 arrests have already been made and its release would potentially be subjudice. "

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