November 14 saw thousands of people, including University of Glasgow students, march through the streets of Glasgow in opposition to the Scottish Defence League’s (SDL) presence in the city.
Around 2,000 people from a range of student organisations, Scottish political parties, faith organisations and trade unions gathered under the banner of “Scotland United” at Glasgow Green, before marching through the city towards George Square.
The anti-fascist rally was organised in opposition to a proposed march by the SDL — an offshoot of the English Defence League — on Glasgow’s Central Mosque. The SDL has claimed that it is not a racist or fascist organisation, but that it is against what they call the “Islamification” of Britain and acts of Islamic militancy.
Phil Neal, a third year Politics student, explained why he took part in the protests.
“I took part in the march in order to send a clear message to the SDL and other fascist organisations that racism is not welcome in Scotland and in order to show solidarity with those communities that are the targets of these thugs.”
Neal also commented that the size of the demonstration, and range of groups attending, proves that Glasgow doesn’t accept the views of the SDL.
He said: “The sheer number of people compared to the number the SDL managed to mobilise shows that Glasgow is a multicultural, multiethnic city and proud of it.”
Neal also believes that society needs to target racism and fascism head on.
“While the SDL might not return soon, if the government does not act or people do not stand up to racists and fascist organisations, the inevitability is that they will.”
The rally at Glasgow Green saw speakers from across the political spectrum, as well as representatives from both the Christian and Muslim communities.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took part in the demonstration and expressed her delight at its success.
“Nobody can be in any doubt that Glasgow won’t tolerate this kind of attack on the city, because it’s an attack on who we are and what makes us who we are. Hopefully this tells the SDL that there’s no place for them here and they need not bother coming back.”
Annabel Goldie, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, explained that the united front formed by all the groups will have sent out a strong message to the SDL and other fascist organisations.
“I think this was the most impressive demonstration we could have asked for, which sent a clear message to these forces of racism that we do not want your sort here in Scotland — get out and stay away.”
Having failed to gain permission from Glasgow City Council to march through the city’s streets, around eighty SDL members held a demonstration on Cambridge Street, although the event was under the tight control of Strathclyde Police.
Once members had carried out their brief protest outside The Cambridge pub, they were sent on buses to other parts of the city by the police force in an attempt to protect the safety of the public.
The Glasgow University Left Society, which was set up earlier this year to bring together different organisations on the political left of campus, organised an earlier demonstration to ensure the SDL were not able to protest anywhere in the city.
Liam Turbett, a second year history student, was involved in the earlier demonstration and explained why this protest was separate from the one organised by Scotland United.
He said: “I was involved in organising the 10am mobilisation — we did so because it became clear that the Scotland United march taking place in the day would not be seeking to directly stop the SDL from assembling and holding their hate-filled protest.”
“Fascists have never been allowed to openly operate within Glasgow, and we didn’t see any reasons to let them start now under their thinly veiled anti-fascist front.
“I think we dealt the SDL a severe blow — even their own supporters are bemoaning the fact that their demonstration was a disaster.”
Patricia Ferguson, MSP for Glasgow Maryhill, praised the marches but also warned that society must remain on its guard against far-right organisations such as the SDL.
She said: “I think today shows that Glasgow won’t stand for this kind of conflict. We know what the SDL’s agenda is — it’s about Nazism, it’s about prejudice, it’s about bigotry, and Glasgow just won’t accept that.
She added: “However, we need to be vigilant and make sure that they don’t make inroads in any of our communities.”
Aamer Anwar, Scottish human rights lawyer, said that the size of the demonstration sent out a clear message to other far-right groups.
“The turnout was fantastic — thousands of people marching through the streets of Glasgow sends out an important message. Don’t bother coming back to Glasgow again, because if you do, we’ll drive you off the streets — you’re not welcome. The police will stop you, the council will stop you, and if they don’t, then we’ll stop you.”