A man dressed in a plaid shirt holds a sign reading "it's not research if they deny opposition". Behind him are a number of other anti-vax protestors
Credit: Fraser Kerr

Multiple demonstrations took to Glasgow’s George Square on Saturday

By Lucy Dunn

From Glasgow’s Pride to the Irish Republican march to the anti-vaccine protest, Glasgow’s streets were packed

Saturday 4 September was a busy day for Glasgow, with the city centre hosting three demonstrations. Glasgow’s Pride was organised by Mardi Gla to start at Festival Park, whilst the Friends of Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association started their “Anti-internment March” at Blythswood Square. There were additional reports of a pro-Palestine stall, and an anti-vaccine protest also took place.

Every group appeared to be heading to George Square for the climax of their protest, with pictures of Glasgow’s Pride crossing paths with the anti-lockdown marchers. There was a heavy police presence in the city, most noticeably in relation to the Republican march, which featured several speakers including Stephen Murney, former `republican prisoner and current Saoradgh National Executive member. There was also a speech from a representative of Glasgow Fight Racism Fight Imperialism (Glasgow FRFI), who were present in solidarity with asylum seekers, to stand against dawn raids.

The largest event was Pride, which started at Cessnock to finish in George Square. Euan McLeod, the Executive Director of Mardi Gla, commented: “Saturday was an amazing day for the LGBTQ+ communities of Glasgow as we joined together for the first time in two years [however] it was a challenge to deliver a Pride march whilst Covid is still such an issue.

“Glasgow was a sea of rainbow flags and the atmosphere among the 6,500 people who joined us was electric [however] there is still so much more to do before our LGBTQ+ family has full equality. We were particularly heartened to see the Pride flag flying high over the University – the support that students and staff give our LGBTQ+ communities is strong and means so much to all of us. Thank you, Glasgow.”

However, Mardi Gla’s emphasis on the  “requirement to take and return a negative [lateral flow test] prior to attending and participating, along with face coverings being worn throughout” was in stark contrast to the anti-vaccination marchers that circled around the city. 

Lasting between an hour-and-a-half and two hours, according to one source, The Glasgow Guardian was told that the anti-lockdown protests took up “about half of George Square” when they arrived, and of these, approximately “half of the active membership [of Reform UK Scotland]” were also present. 

The Glasgow Guardian spoke to Fraser Kerr, a street photographer who covered the anti-vaccine protest – though is not associated with the anti-vaccine movement himself – about the atmosphere of the event. “They started in George Square, and moved down Buchanan Street… They got down to Bier Halle, and got massively booed by folk there; their presence was not welcome at all. 

“My feeling was that people were looking at them and laughing, ridiculing, or were astounded that these people existed. To be fair, they got a cheer at George Square, but it felt sarcastic to me. They met up with the Pride marchers who gave them the middle finger.

“I’m sure some are well-meaning, but they’re just misguided, and they’re not reading enough… It’s like writing an essay and only using one source, and that’s the worst mistake to make.”

Asked about the numbers of anti-vaccine protestors present, Fraser said that police had given figures of about 300-400, but he felt that “this was generous; there were not as many as that”. He described the crowd as “all white, usually middle-aged, and mostly men”. 

The Glasgow Guardian spoke to one anti-lockdown marcher, David Kirkwood, who is also a supporter of the “eight-month-old” Reform UK Scotland party about his reasons for taking part in the march. “I am disgusted by the government,” he said, “and their attacks on personal freedom and personal choice.” When asked whether the party stance was against vaccinations themselves, or, instead, the attitude that everyone should be getting vaccinated, David replied that he could not speak on behalf of all party members, but said: “If you want to get the jag, then get the jag.”

On the atmosphere of the protest, David said that there was “no animosity anywhere”, and that “lots of people were surprised by the information in the leaflets [they] were giving out”. However, Fraser told The Glasgow Guardian that people were pointing at him to take his mask off, including an occasion where one protestor pointed his Scotland flag at him “aggressively” several times throughout the march: “They were generally a bit rowdy.”


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