Following the arrest of five people at this year’s Glasgow Pride celebration on August 19th, Clydeside Industrial Workers of the World member Panos explains why he was present at the Police out of Pride bloc, and his experiences on the day.
I am one of the five arrested on the 19th of August 2017 at Glasgow Pride. I am a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and was attending the Red and Black bloc to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community in their struggle. A key goal of the bloc was to highlight the interconnected nature of different struggles and to use the opportunity to further express solidarity with the progressive movements of the world, including with that of Charlottesville which recently experienced the murder of Heather Heyer by the Nazi movement. While I am not a member of the LGBTQ community, I attended in solidarity with my comrades from the community who organised the Red and Black bloc. The reason I am releasing this statement is to illuminate what happened, contrary to many falsities I have seen circulating on the internet, and to provide the movement with a personal account of events which the police will most certainly try to cover up.
Early in the march, I noticed that a person was being intimidated by the police. The problem appeared to be a placard the person was holding which wrote ‘these faggots fight fascists’. Being a trained legal observer (although not attending in that capacity), I approached to make sure everything was OK. I was told that everything was under control and moved away. Soon it became evident that everything was not under control, particularly since the person holding the sign was visibly distressed and the police were trying to isolate them. I approached again and told the person holding the sign some basic rights that they needed to know, such as the right to not provide any personal information to the police unless under arrest.
The police started shouting at me to move back, to which I responded that I just wanted to make sure that they were not taking advantage of the person’s visibly vulnerable situation. The police began moving the person away from the rest of the bloc, stating that they are under arrest for holding the sign which someone had complained about. At this point, it is important to note that the usage of the term ‘faggot’ was employed in an assertive, positive manner; the reclamation of negatively-associated terms has long been a key tactic of many movements. Moreover, the person accused was at the time wearing a rainbow flag. The charges of homophobic hatred are therefore completely false, and represent an attempt to silence the very community Pride is all about.
The police had no intention of letting me talk to the person and quickly became aggressive and started telling them that they are under arrest. The person holding the sign was visibly distressed and said that they don’t want to go with the police, at which point, attempting to diffuse the situation, I put my arm in between the person and the police. Suddenly I found myself grabbed by many hands and tried to leave, but I was unable to do so. Finally, without provocation, I was tackled to the ground and handcuffed. The charges against me are obstruction of the police, attempt to rescue, resistance to arrest, and intimidation of officers. I was just trying to make sure that this young person was treated in a humane manner, while the police was clearly attempting to escalate the situation.
Inside the police station, the police made absolutely no effort to calm the person down; indeed, they actively attempted to further their distress. When they were taking our details the person was right next to me and I observed the entire process. At one point, the police asked them for a lawyer; unprepared and intimidated, the person was unable to answer. I told them the name of a lawyer that specialises in protest situations, and was promptly told in a very aggressive manner to be quiet and to not have any contact with them. Later, again noticing distress, I tried to comfort them by saying something along the lines of ‘everything is going to be all right’, at which point I was again told to be quiet. All this time the person was becoming increasingly upset.
The last time I heard of the person was when walking past their cell on my way to have my fingerprints taken- they asked if their parents had been notified, and received the response ‘yes, and I don’t think they are very happy with you young man’. This is once again an act of intimidation by the police towards someone visibly shaken and no way in compliance with basic human compassion. Being held in custody, especially when it is one’s first time, is a deeply traumatic experience and the police did all they could to accentuate its negative impact. A key reason I am writing this statement at all is to expose the sadistic nature with which Glasgow police dealt with a vulnerable human. I cannot say any more out of respect for confidentiality, which is why I have strictly mentioned incidents that directly involved me. I am not making any inferences on the psychological state of this person, nor am I trying to portray myself as some type of hero; I am merely describing a situation where a fellow human was very visibly distressed. I hope that the people reading have understood enough of the extent of the psychological violence that the police of Glasgow employed.
The actions of my bloc and my participation within it were informed purely by the desire to express solidarity with all oppressed groups in an anti-capitalist, internationalist manner. We never came looking for conflict, which can be evidenced by the fact the bloc had a very loose and non-securitised formation. Contrary to some positions I have seen circulating in the Internet, we never attempted to sabotage anything and definitely did not incite any type of homophobic hatred. Many of the people in the bloc are themselves members of the community and the rest of us came purely to express our solidarity and did not lead or instigate anything.
Many attendees of the bloc have routinely put their bodies on the line fighting precisely the behaviours and ideas that have been attributed to some of us. Furthermore, a very small minority of those attending had their faces covered (not that face-coverings legitimise police violence); the organisers did not. There were many flags and banners which made it very difficult to mistake the bloc for a far-right force. It is too early to provide an analysis of the motivations of whoever felt threatened by our presence; at this point, the information on this statement will have to suffice. To conclude, I want to extend my solidarity to the three other trans arrestees.
The arrests have caused a huge stink in the LGBT community, particularly after a statement was released by the Glasgow Pride organising group backing the police and suggesting that the protests were somehow “endangering others.”
Pride Glasgow fully encourage the participation of uniformed services in the Parade including the Police and whilst we understand that others may have a different view on this. Actions which endanger others will not be permitted.
Pride Glasgow support the actions of Police Scotland in dealing with this group to ensure the safety of everyone on the Parade and the Festival. Pride Glasgow has worked closely with the police and relevant agencies to put appropriate measures in place to deal with incidents at all levels especially given the current threat level.
Antifascist Edinburgh has backed the five arrestees, noting:
This was a disgusting move from the police, who arrested queer people at a queer march with a queer banner whilst at the same march ignoring genuine homophobic hate preachers on a street corner nearby. Protecting homophobic fascists whilst brutalising queer antifascists is emblematic of the behaviour of police Scotland who have more in common with the far right than with liberation movements.
Queer people being attacked by the police with the complicity of corporate friendly pride organisers is an absolute outrage. Rather than stand by their queer siblings, Glasgow pride instead chose to condemn the victims of police repression and side with the police via a grotesque public statement that represented only their own cowardly interests and not those of the queer & trans community at large. It comes as no surprise that those with financial motivations have little to nothing in common with those whom they claim to represent.
Those who have more in common with police than with LGBTQAI+ demonstrators fighting for their rights and against the fascist menace have no place running anything in the name of queer liberation, much less a pride march.
Update: Following the backlash, Glasgow Pride issued a “revised” line today, saying that:
We are aware of concerns raised from within the community about incidents which resulted in arrests and charges and will raise these concerns with the police as part of our normal review procedures. We will be reaching out to all the groups involved to have a dialogue, gathering further information about the events and gaining a better understanding of diverse views.
There may be some issues to which we will not agree, but will do our best to ensure there will always be a place in pride for diverse opinions and protest so long as this remains peaceful. We will be conducting a full review of Pride Glasgow 2017 in the coming months, the shape and format of this review will be decided soon. We encourage everyone, regardless of opinion, to get involved.”
Panos’ statement was first published on the Clydeside IWW Facebook page