A demonstration was organised on 17 June by No Evictions Glasgow, a tenancy rights group, to protest the conditions in hotels where refugees are currently being held during the COVID-19 pandemic.
No Evictions Glasgow allege that the sites are inadequate, provide poor quality food, that refugees have been unable to leave, and that it has amounted to conditions like prison. While the protest was organised around this specific issue, the demonstration seemed to be one that advocated refugee rights in general including the ceasing of deportations.
The organisers were aware that there would be far-right protesters, including some from the National Defence League (NDL), and advised people to remain safe. After a protest last weekend against Robert Peel statues was turned away from George Square by the same group, police were aware that there might be confrontation. The nationalists have started routinely gathering in the square after statues around the UK became targets of vandalism two weeks ago.
At approximately 6pm the hotel protest marched into the square, but rather than going into the prepared protest zone and barricade set up by the police, they marched towards the center of the square where a handful of protesters charged on both sides. Police on standby immediately dispatched and separated the two groups. They overturned and trampled a non-affiliated bicyclist in the process of creating a large human barrier between the groups. The hotel group then moved to a position where the police were able to block off the far-right groups, and remained peaceful for the remainder of the protest.
Police dispatched over 100 officers and used police trucks to cut off all traffic around the square. Small numbers of the far-right group would occasionally try to break through the human police barricade and harass the demonstration. Those infiltrating the barrier were met with batons and attempted to fight police. This lead to the far-right protestors confronting police both shouting and physically shoving.
It was realised that the situation was not safe and demonstration organisers on the advice of police decided to make a final speech before being escorted by police out of the square. An organiser said, "We have made our point today… Scotland is for everyone and it only takes five pounds to give these people the food that they need. These people are in a prison, we can do better."
The organiser also mentioned that one individual, named Adnan Olbeh, has died while in a hotel and how now there is a hunger strike among a group of refugees.
One far-right protester, who refused to give their name, said, "It's ridiculous how [the police] are protecting those who want to destroy them."
He went on to explain how he was there to protect history and protect the war memorial in front of the city chambers. There was however, already a metal barricade set out by police in advance of the protest and a handful of stationed officers around the memorial. Many of those counter protesting were from the National Defence League. They screamed that the protesters were "unwashed bastards" and alleged that the protesters were affiliated with ANTIFA. They attempted to drown out the protesters' chants by singing "God Save the Queen."
After the escort of detention protesters around 6:25pm , a large police presence was maintained around the square as the right wing nationalists went home. Police Scotland have confirmed that six arrests were made, but no fines issued for breaking of lockdown or social distancing. Most protesters on both sides wore masks, however many people were well within two meters of each other.
First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon commented on the event, "Racist thugs shame Scotland. If they break the law, they should face the full force of it. And all of us should unite to say that welcoming refugees and asylum seekers is part of who we are."
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