6 Community Impact: Live Observations And Participant Perspectives
6.1 This chapter draws on the preceding material while also exploring a range of issues that have emerged from the case-studies. These issues are examined alongside information obtained from focus groups and interviews with procession participants and organisers. The chapter highlights the relationship between the processions and the communities in which they take place and examines the meaning that procession participants attach to these events, and how that compares to the meaning that may be placed upon these processions by local populations. It attempts to make sense of some of the issues which affect responses to processions and which contribute to the concerns of local communities.
6.2 Descriptions of processions included in this chapter are drawn from extensive ethnographic research and have been compiled from fieldwork notes across different methodological approaches, notably unstructured and structured participant observations conducted during the processions. They draw upon the research teams' accounts of events. Further details of the methodological approach upon which the data presented here is based, is set out in Annex A.
Practical features of processions
6.3 While a variety of factors and features are likely to influence the impact of processions on local communities, at least some of these factors are due to practicalities such as the size of processions. Crowd dynamic differs at the bigger processions which draw a mix of static observers who locate themselves on the main street or in the town centre thoroughfares, and mobile follower/observers who tend to walk alongside a particular band. Large events are also well advertised in advance and significant attention is paid by police and local authorities to disruption as a result of road closures and volume of people. Smaller processions may be less disruptive in scale but can also impact significantly on local communities (for example the SDL at Pollokshields in January 2013 caused considerable alarm to the local community despite there being only eight SDL members in attendance.
6.4 Processions are also extremely transitory. Although a small parade may only take a few minutes to move through an area, the noise it generates announces its arrival and its proximity long before and after that 'minute slot'. Bands can be heard approaching and passing and when moving through built up areas, the sound bounces off walls and buildings maximising an impression of bands moving forward from all sides. Within a few minutes of their passing, however, there is often no evidence that they have been there.
6.5 Within communities, processions can also affect local people and businesses in different ways. For example, where public houses are aligned with particular football support, this might lead to a boost in trade before, during and after a procession. But for others, customers may stay away or the doors may be closed for the duration of the procession resulting in a temporary loss of trade.
A Small Return Procession
Royal Blacks Return Parade to Bridgeton 10 August 2013
Just opposite the Crystal Bell pub, an altercation takes place when a man, standing outside the pub, appears to shout something. A group of young men who are walking behind the procession run across the road towards him but several police officers intervene and push him forcibly against the building, holding him there for the brief time it takes for the procession to pass. After this incident an additional police car follows at the rear of the procession.
Heading up the Gallowgate, the atmosphere seems to become increasingly tense, despite the small number of Royal Blacks and size of the procession, and the quick pace with which it passes through the area. A number of people are in the street, as expected for a Saturday afternoon. As the procession moves on through the area, the number of followers continues to increase.
Another incident takes place between supporters and by-standers outside the entrance to the Barras, and there is some pushing and shoving. One or two stewards and band members appear to get involved in the confrontation, leaving the road and stepping on to the pavement. Others urge them to get back on the road, shouting: 'keep walking'.
As the procession passes by, police officers speak to a woman who was caught up in this incident and appears to be distressed, as is her teenage daughter who stands beside her wearing a Celtic football top. A more visible police presence is evident on the street after this incident. Police vans drive at the front and at the rear of this procession and approximately eight police officers surround it. Members of the public, most of whom are women, stand in the street, waiting for the procession to move on out of the area. Two women are heard agreeing they are 'not going up there!' nodding towards the procession which has temporarily stopped.
Within a few moments it moves on and is soon out of the area. However, support continues to grow as the procession nears Bridgeton and again, it seems to be mainly young men in track-suits and Rangers football insignia who continue to join it. The Braemar Bar and the Calton Bar, popular with Celtic Supporters, have pulled the shutters down over their windows and doors as the procession passes, opening again once it has gone by. As the procession passes the main retail area of the Gallowgate, the number of followers dissipates leaving around 15-20 follower observers. Although the crowd of follower observers have waned, the police presence has not.
As the procession enters the main street in Bridgeton, older people join the procession and here there is visible support for the processors, with spectators clapping the procession on its final leg of the journey. The atmosphere is more relaxed here, people are smiling and more women and older people are present, standing in the streets, welcoming the procession. People stand outside pubs to watch them go past, a number of the supporters wearing band uniforms, presumably having been on the earlier, large procession in Renfrew. The followers clap, sing and cheer as they walk alongside the band. As the procession passes, the static observers cheer and clap and wave to the band and follower-observers. The procession passes into the residential areas. When it comes to a halt outside the Orange Hall the procession finishes with the band playing God Save the Queen.
Planning and preparation
6.6 Organisers spend a great deal of time and effort producing plans for their events, particularly for the large annual processions which are a feature of many organisations, often rotating across areas. This can be a significant burden on the time of individuals, most of whom will be organising these events on a voluntary basis. Responses by local authorities can vary in terms of the number of meetings that organisers may be required to attend in advance of the event. There was a view that local authority representatives do not always appreciate the effort that has gone into planning and preparation and that some local authorities were overly bureaucratic in the way they handled procession notifications. One organisation referred to the problems they experienced with local authorities and the police:
Route and time constraints, changes of dates, start - finish points, unprecedented requests for resource and finance put on the organisers. Time consuming meetings that are set up like summits, the questions not always relevant - your details are shared (Facebook page).
6.7 Some organisers indicated they were unhappy when their procession was expected to fit within the time-frame of police shifts or accommodate football fixtures, which were not confirmed until June, thereby creating uncertainty with arrangements for events expected to take place over the summer. On the other hand, the procedures that had been implemented post-Orr review were considered by some organisation representatives to have made the process more 'transparent', providing greater opportunities for redress should there be a disagreement over procession authorisation, route etc. One organisation representative noted: "The Orr report has been useful in letting us have dialogue with the police and the council" (interview), resulting in better relationships between all groups. Several organisers however, also noted that they had contributed to the Orr review but had been disappointed that it had not gone further: one respondent that it had not sufficiently reduced the number of feeder and return parades; another respondent that it had placed restrictions on these processions.
6.8 Organisations often begin to prepare for an event up to a year in advance, raising funds, hiring bands, organising venues and transport. Those which hold annual processions indicated their frustrations when notifications are submitted well in advance but when local authority agreement to proceed does not come until very close to the event. One focus group member noted:
We know they are traditional events, they happen every year, we know they are going to happen so we put in for them well in advance and maybe if the council got back to us in plenty of time people would feel they could be a bit more flexible…but that isn't going to happen…
6.9 Some organisation representatives indicated that, where appropriate, they would be willing to amend proposed routes; for some however, concerns were expressed that compromises made for a particular event may become incorporated in the future, as a result, they were reluctant to make compromises in relation to the routes proposed. This appeared to be a greater problem where routes had been established over time and were perceived as having some local significance.
6.10 Local authorities, notably Glasgow, have made attempts to reduce the number of processions taking place particularly in terms of feeder and return processions which are a prominent feature of the loyal orders. Organisations such as the Orange Order, Grand Black Chapter and Apprentice Boys of Derry indicated that they had reduced the number of processions taking place but were reluctant to reduce them further; in their view, they had reduced them as far as reasonably possible given the central role they have within their organisational culture. Focus group participants indicated that they felt 'under scrutiny', one described feeling:
under attack, that they are trying to take that part of us away; if you take that part - parading - away from the Orange Institution, you are taking a massive chunk away from us. It's not the be-all and end-all of the Orange institution but it's a massive integral part of who we are and what we do.
6.11 Debriefs following processions were generally viewed positively and organisers indicated that they were sometimes considered unnecessary, or kept brief when events had gone to plan:
The debriefs help sort out any problems for the next year. We have had a few problems over the years, but gradually it has got better and we don't have so much to sort out, our last debrief took seven minutes (focus group participant).
A large annual procession
County Grand Lodge of Central Scotland, Annual Celebration to commemorate the 323rd Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, Coatbridge, Saturday 6 July 2013
Event and planning
The event was carefully arranged and planning took place over the months prior to the event. The Order had worked closely with Police Scotland to prepare for the event and discussions had been ongoing with the local authority since the notification had been submitted, well in advance of the event itself.
The sheer size of the procession had necessitated the closure of a number of roads in Coatbridge on the day of the procession and significant disruption to the community had been anticipated. The local authority had distributed leaflets to the residential areas likely to be most affected by the event; the procession effectively encircled the centre of Coatbridge meaning that access and egress would not be possible for most of the day. Traffic signs were set up in Coatbridge indicating 'Major Event' in Coatbridge from Tuesday evening (29th June).
A planning meeting (Marshalls Meeting) was arranged for Saturday 25 May at the Orange Hall and which Police Commanders with responsibility for policing the procession attended along with event marshals from participating Orange Lodges. The logistical arrangements were considered in detail and the key areas identified for particular attention were the coach arrangements (to avoid backlogs at drop-off and pick-up points) and areas where marshals were expected to pay particular attention to the procession including potential 'flash points' and points where it would be important to ensure the procession retained momentum (there were various points where bands had 'lingered' in the past; as well as a turn where the procession was required to manoeuvre a +90 degree bend). The practical and logistical issues were significant given the task of ensuring that more than 10,000 people were escorted round a three mile route and back onto buses.
In line with local authority requirements, procession organisers were required to provide a sufficient number of marshals for their event (1 marshal to 10 processors) and to ensure that flags, banners and songs on display met with local authority regulations (i.e. bye-laws and the Terrorism Act 2000 with regard to paramilitary symbolism). Each lodge attending the event generally brought a band with them (band members are not necessarily members of the Orange Order but will have been contracted by individual lodges to accompany the procession on the day). Lodges therefore had responsibility for the conduct of band members, with bands vetted by the County Grand Lodge. Orange Order members were told that alcohol consumption was not acceptable among those taking part in the procession.
Individuals and small groups emerge from the train station and into the park on an ongoing basis. Some carry items of paraphernalia such as Ulster flags, Rangers flags, 'Support our troops' scarves and flags, union flags. There are also flags stating: 'King Billy - No Surrender'. Those arriving are a mix of ages with slightly more men than women. People are casually dressed in shorts, skirts, jeans and t-shirts, appropriate for the weather; in contrast to the formal uniforms of band members and the Orange Order, with their white shirts, suits and Orange collars. Women members of the Order wear brightly coloured dresses, suits and hats.
By 9.45 local feeder parades begin to make their way into the park. Observers clap and video the processions as they arrive. While band members linger at the far side of the park, members of the Orange Order move towards a stage which has been set up for a pre-procession service. Leaders of the Orange Order, men only, sit on the platform and the service, when it gets under way, consists of a combination of religion (church service, prayers, hymns) and politics (pro-union) After the service, the order to start the procession is given and the bands immediately fall into line.
Outside the park, on the main road, groups of people start to gather to watch the procession. A number of young men who are visibly intoxicated are told by a police officer to 'get off the road'. Later, another police officer is overheard telling a similar group of young men that they can drink in the park, but if they take alcohol onto the streets it will be confiscated. At points, officers are handing out Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs).
The procession itself is disciplined, well-behaved and sober. Spectators along the route are brightly dressed, a mix of ages, men and women, smiling and waving, and taking photographs. People stand along the road and on every plausible vantage point. In the vicinity of the Orange Hall, elderly members of the Orange Order have been provided with seats and wave union flags as the procession passes. In contrast to these groupings, a number of young men on the periphery of the procession walk drunkenly through spectators and observers. They have no tops on but wear union flags tied around them; they are loud, shouting and singing, at points singing 'The Bouncy' song and falling into people as they pass by.
While the bands play a selection of tunes, there is no singing from the processors, although at points the crowd along the route sing 'We are the Billy Boys' or 'The Sash'. Most bands are preceded by a baton thrower who has a major role in eliciting reactions from the crowd by throwing a baton high overhead and catching it. On occasions, stewards wave to the crowd as if encouraging them to sing. Spectators cheer and clap, noticeably when bands have small children accompanying them.
Crowds of over 150 spectators have gathered under the two railway bridges the procession passes under, with pavements densely lined, two-three rows deep, for 50 yards either side of the bridges. As the procession passes under the bridges, the bands play 'The Sash' loudly, with the structure of the bridge amplifying the sound significantly and the crowd singing in unison to create a power and energy that is considerable.
Given the size of the procession, it passes through a number of different communities. The Langloan area has a visible police presence, consisting as it does of a potential 'flashpoint', while the Gartsherrie area displays support for the procession with union flag bunting hanging from lampposts and a large sign proclaiming 'Welcome to Loyalist Gartsherrie.'
The procession remains orderly throughout. Stewards, both men and women, wearing high visibility vests and frequently white gloves, walk at intervals of approximately 10-20 yards apart. As they walk alongside the procession, they point out potential obstacles, urge people to keep in line or keep pace, help anyone visibly struggling with the heat and where necessary, escort passers-by across the road between bands. Police officers are evident along the route. At specific vantage points, officers are clearly visible filming the procession. A police helicopter is periodically deployed overhead.
As the procession returns to Drumpellier Park, coaches are in place to collect the bands and procession participants. Local lodges take part in return parades to their halls, with a small procession of about 5-6 bands leaving the park together. There are two stewards and one police officer for every band and a police support unit at the back of the procession. The crowds have already begun to disperse by 15.00 although about 200 people continue to watch the small procession as it heads back to the local Orange hall/s.
Notifying the community
6.12 One of the difficulties identified by this research was the lack of awareness that many people had about the organisations themselves and about when processions were likely to take place. While most (but not all) local authorities make this information available via council websites, this often failed to inform the majority of the local community about events taking place (as illustrated in Chapter 5). Organisations attempted different ways to promote awareness and engage the local community. For example, prior to the County Grand Lodge event in Coatbridge, a Cultural and Heritage Exhibition had been arranged at the local Orange Hall over several days (1-4 July 2013) to promote awareness of the procession within the local community. The focus of these events was to provide information about the Orange Order, its cultural heritage and religious underpinnings. Each evening, several short lectures were given on the Orange Order and its relationship to Scottish society. Displays consisted of artefacts, paraphernalia and lodge banners explaining the tradition of the Orange Order. The charitable work of the Orange Order was stressed and the 'Christian spirit' which formed the basis of their identity was highlighted at the events.
6.13 The event organised by Cairde na h'Eireann marked a weekend of events to support the ongoing campaign for justice for the families of the 1994 Loughinisland massacre (six Irishmen were killed by UVF paramilitaries as they watched Ireland play Italy in the football World Cup on 18 June 1994 in the Heights bar in the small County Down village of Loughinisland). Families have been consistently critical of major failings in the investigation and the weekend of events concluded on the day after the procession with a public forum where relatives of the victims were available to answer questions and take part in discussions.
6.14 Other organisations have held 'open days' where the public are invited to find out more about them. Where organisations with a local base held processions in their local area, attempts were often made to engage the local community with varying degrees of success. A degree of misinformation was considered to lie behind lack of community participation in local events. One focus group participant explained:
Yes, we are a secret society but we parade, we don't hide our faces, we would welcome anyone who wanted to come and talk to us, but there seems a reluctance by the public to come and talk to us.
6.15 The introduction of training programmes for stewards, facilitated for some organisations by Strathclyde Police, and the use of trained stewards at events was welcomed by all agencies and seen as a positive development by organisations themselves. Procession organisers are expected to provide an allotted number of trained stewards to facilitate processions (one steward to 10). Organisations reported spending considerable time and effort ensuring that stewards were trained and competent and a significant sense of pride was achieved in doing so. Effective stewarding allowed organisations to assist the safe progress of processions using their own members, and freed up the police to monitor any counter-demonstrations or problematic behaviour outside the procession itself.
6.16 Different organisations have a different relationship to observers/followers and this was reflected in stewarding arrangements. For some organisations, members and bands make up the procession, while supporters will follow alongside. For other organisations, specific efforts are made to encourage observers/followers to become part of the procession and therefore under the scrutiny of stewards. Overall, organisation members were well-disciplined and procession organisers went to significant lengths to impress upon their members the importance of 'appropriate' behaviour in relation to alcohol consumption, singing and general conduct. It was viewed as important that the behaviour of individual members should reflect the organisation in a positive light and some organisations made considerable efforts to ensure all members were aware of this, with any participants who were drunk or behaving inappropriately being removed from the procession.
6.17 One organiser, voicing the opinion of several interviewees, noted:
Unfortunately when you have any public event you will get people coming along that you don't want at that public event. You get drunks, and people out of their faces with drugs or whatever turning up. We have stewards up there beforehand and anyone who is drinking or whatever, is asked to go away and they won't get into our march (focus group).
Involving (and managing) supporters
Cairde na h'Eireann, Coatbridge, Saturday 13 July 2013
Event and planning
Planning arrangements and agreed procedures had taken place prior to the event between the organisers, police and local authority. The organisation is recognised for the quality of its stewarding practices. The weekend of events had been advertised with posters distributed around Coatbridge; they specified 'strictly no alcohol'.
Procession participants group themselves by cummain behind banners. There are a number of Celtic football tops and Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland football tops and strips on display. Many people wear t-shirts with the names and pictures of hunger strikers, especially Bobby Sands.
Initially there is a limited police presence, with no visible support units but just before the procession sets off, the police presence grows and two police support units arrive. The police engage with band members and spectators and can be seen removing alcohol from observers.
As the procession sets off, the crowd of spectators in the park and on the main street join on and are steered into the procession by stewards located at the gate entrance and along the route. The procession is made up of young and old men and women, lots of children and family groups. The mood is sombre but people appear to be enjoying the sunshine; there is no singing. Stewarding is relaxed but vigilant.
Two mounted police follow at the back of the procession with four officers on motor bikes at the front who wait until the procession safely negotiates a corner or a junction before moving off to the next junction.
While the political message conveyed by the procession is evident from the front, it disappears after the first 15-20 people (i.e. the family members) pass by. There are no evident banners or leaflets raising awareness about the Loughinisland killings other than at the very front of the procession, perhaps taking for granted that the message conveyed at the front will be evident to those who encounter the procession at other points on the route.
One potential flashpoint has been identified prior to the procession - the Segton Bar, known for being popular with Rangers supporters. The Segton Bar itself is closed, with the shutters down. The area is rigorously stewarded by Cairde marshalls. Any participant who gets too close to the pub doors is pushed back, and no one is allowed to loiter outside the pub other than the bands (who momentarily stop).
The procession makes its way through the town and turns into the Langloan area, where tricolours and bunting are on display. Examples of community support for the procession are evident here; participants and band members can be seen entering a house to use the toilet, while the residents stand in the garden, handing out bottles of water. The procession ends in Langloan with a rally in support of the families. A banner is on display with the slogan 'Time for Truth'.
During the songs that are played, especially the Soldier's song (Irish national anthem) the vast majority of participants stand or sit in silence with their heads bowed. When one or two individuals, attempt to sing along, they are chastised by fellow observers and stewards for showing a lack of respect. A family member, a woman, from Loughinisland delivers a speech to the crowd, thanking them for their support and highlighting the progress with their campaign. One of the main Cairde na hÉirean organisers, instructs people to leave the field at the end in the 'respectful, dignified manner' that they arrived, reminding them that 'this is not a football match' but a social justice campaign. At the end of the rally the crowd dissipates quickly.
6.18 Policing, and how it is carried out, can significantly affect both participants and local community experiences of processions or similar events. A variety of views were expressed regarding the appropriateness, or otherwise, of the policing of specific processions with some confusion about what (or who) was being policed.
6.19 Generally, relations between organisers and police commanders were positive and considerable effort went into preparations for the procession. However, different police officers (perhaps dependent on individual personality or rank), as well as different officers on the front line may all interpret orders for the day differently making it hard for processors to know what to expect. Codes of conduct, it was suggested by interviewees, were open to different interpretations and accordingly potential for disagreement. Perceived rudeness by some junior officers (for example in serving paperwork to procession organisers at their home/videoing procession organisers reading procession notifications - when in both cases procession organisers were already in receipt of and familiar with the terms of the procession authorisation) was commonly noted; something which contrasted sharply with procession organisers more cordial treatment in official dealings with senior officers. Inconsistent treatment of procession organisers was also noted between local authorities. One interviewee commented:
I think it depends on who the police are, and what their attitude is. You can have two police coming to your door on the morning of the demonstration and they will come in, have a cup of tea and they are very friendly. And then you'll get two coming down who throw the papers in your face 'get this and MOVE!' That is the way they speak to you… (focus group participant).
6.20 Organisers indicated that they considered the role of the police should be to police public order, and generally felt there was little need for a large police presence when they had trained stewards in place. One interviewee reflected the views of many organisers by stating:
Well we don't think the police should be there to police our marches! They should be there to sort the traffic and stuff like that, and make sure we don't get attacked…let us steward the march (interview).
6.21 While still of the opinion that levels of policing were often too high, interviewees noted that things had actually improved considerably, although there was room for further improvement. The use of police horses and helicopters, with the costs associated with this, was also viewed by procession organisers as factors which contributed to a negative opinion of public processions by the general public. One focus group participant commented:
People get angry with the number of police that are around, helicopters, videos, we don't need that kind of thing but we're made to feel that we are in the wrong for being on parade…We feel intimidated.
6.22 Procession organisers, across the spectrum, expressed concern at the impact of 'over policing' and there was a perception that the introduction of stewards should result in less of a police presence. Whilst the policing in Coatbridge, for example, was seen as successfully low key, in contrast, the policing tactics at other events was more uneven, with large police numbers at certain points along the Gallowgate in Glasgow, and at the Scottish Defence League (SDL) processions. This could contribute to an air of tension and nervousness experienced by onlookers and the general public. Ethnographic data collection highlighted this, particularly at SDL events which resulted in significant police attendance with no visible procession and where members of the public expressed concerns about the reason for the police presence. This raises some interesting questions about whether a high profile police presence creates a sense of 'safety', or a perception that there will be trouble, and supports the introduction of zonal policing which appears to be less intimidating and more effective.
6.23 In contrast to the perceived 'over-policing' of some processions, there was also a concern on the part of some groups that the police failed to respond to 'hate-speech' or racism (including anti-Irish racism) (for example when Irish Republican processors are subject to verbal, anti-Irish abuse by demonstrators; when local communities are subjected to racist abuse at SDL events). While the police may be keen to avoid more overt confrontations on the day, or indeed may not have sufficient officers available to make arrests, this may leave sections of the community with the belief that that this behaviour is 'state tolerated'. Irish Republican interviewees gave examples where they had been subject to racist taunts, spat at and occasionally subjected to violence by demonstrators who opposed their procession, in situations where they felt unprotected by the police (interviews and focus groups).
6.24 On occasion, public processions will attract a counter-demonstration. These can take different forms, in some cases constituting a 'contestational gathering' where opposing sides occupy space in close proximity to each other. In such circumstances, the demonstration effectively constitutes a 'facilitated confrontation'. This differs from 'autonomous gatherings' where those in opposition to a procession can protest by creating an alternative, multi-cultural space (as happened in Pollokshields). The organisation and policing of counter-demonstrations can have a significant impact on community experiences and, while registering opposition to a particular procession, can increase community anxiety and alarm. Counter-demonstrations can be difficult to police or to anticipate and often appear to be co-ordinated on social media forums which have an increasingly significant role in these events.
6.25 In the case of some counter-demonstrations, a large police presence and clear delineations between demonstrators and processors can result in confrontations characterised by organised booing rather than threats of wider disorder. However, this may be directly related to the policing practices where demonstrators may feel relatively safe behind police lines. In other examples, such as the Pride of Govan 30th Anniversary, demonstrators were significantly outnumbered and at points there was a significant potential for disorder and harm. Similarly, small numbers of SDL members may feel protected behind police lines despite being heavily outnumbered by UAF counter-demonstrators.
Counter-demonstrations and crowd control
Pride of Govan Flute Band, 30th Anniversary Parade
Event and planning
Counter-demonstrations are stationed at two points on the procession route (both on Craigton Road). Green, white and gold bunting hangs outside the Tall Cranes Pub (at the corner of Craigton Rd at Crossloan Rd) and a banner reads 'Orange Bands Not Wanted in Govan'. Two police officers stand nearby. Further up the street at the corner of Nimmo Drive, a small gathering of protestors has assembled surrounded by about 15 police officers and two vans. Here the graffiti on the walls behind the demonstrators says 'UVF Murderers'. The demonstration is made up of 40-50 people, mostly men aged between 20 and 50 years old and some younger women and teenagers. On the fencing at the edge of the pavement are banners that read 'Orange free zone'.
This counter-demonstration is almost completely hemmed in by the police on the street, the railing at the edge of the pavement and the police support unit vans. Soon, a third police support unit arrives and sits outside the Tall Cranes pub. Three men wearing 'Help for Heroes' t-shirts stand on the pavement opposite, one of them filming the counter-demonstration on his phone.
The bands have started to line up at the top of Craigton Road, arriving from all directions. At this part of the street, family and friends of band members stand alongside them on the pavement. There are lots of children around. A large number of stewards are identifiable by their high-vis vests, smartly dressed in collar and ties. People seem happy and excited. The first band to go forward is the Pride of Govan with flag and wreath carriers; to leave at the war memorial. They get a round of applause and other bands start to fall into line behind them. As the bands move forward they make some progress then everything stops.
As the delay becomes prolonged, people begin to suspect that something is going on further down Craigton Road (in the vicinity of the counter-demonstration) and some people start to move forward to look. Police at the top of the street quickly start to head down the street, some running. Though there is a degree of anxiety evident, the stewards seem calm and unconcerned and this section of the procession generally reflects this atmosphere.
Further down Craigton Road however, a very different atmosphere is evident. The sound of singing or chanting can be heard and it becomes clear that it is not coming from the procession but from a crowd of people moving down the street in front of it. Initially it appears to consist of approximately 50 people who are singing 'The Sash' and 'Billy Boys'. The group stops close to the counter-demonstration and starts chanting: "No Surrender, No surrender, No surrender to the IRA".
Within a few minutes, this group has increased to about 300-350, predominantly but not exclusively men. By contrast, only five additional police officers have arrived to support their colleagues and at this point it seems that the police are considerably outnumbered. The group remonstrates at the police to move the counter-demonstrators and verbal abuse is directed at the counter-demonstrators. The police draw their batons, some facing each group in an attempt to keep the two sides apart. Various objects are thrown at the counter-demonstrators (e.g. cans and bottles of soft drinks, coins, lighters, stones and bricks). A smoke canister is also thrown.
The crowd surges against the small number of police cordoning off the counter-demonstration. After a short while some of the counter-demonstrators escape the police containment and try to run towards the Tall Cranes. They are chased by their opponents and there are a few brief scuffles with punches thrown. It is only the presence of a fence and cars that stop someone being injured and some police officers manage to get in-between the two sides. There appears to be a notable lack of police officers in the vicinity at this point, and it seems like at least 10-15 minutes before reinforcements arrive. With the arrival of reinforcements it takes a further 35 minutes to bring the situation under control as the police move the counter-demonstrators down Crossloan Road and keep them behind a large police line.
The procession now restarts after a 45 minute delay, the bands conducting themselves formally, with band members occasionally stepping out of line to shake hands with family members or supporters, rushing into pubs to use the facilities. Walking alongside the procession, there are people in gardens, observing, looking out of windows, occasional union flags but in general, it is not clear if people observing support the procession. There are large numbers of static observers as the bands pass onto Govan road. Whilst there are no more visible signs of trouble, there are clearly still some tensions. As one band passes the Irish pub at the start of Govan road, they play 'Sloop John B' (the tune to which the lyrics of the famine song are sometimes attached) though none of the crowd can be heard singing the lyrics. Two heavy-set public order police officers guard the pub door.
Meaning and identity
6.26 Processions provide an opportunity to celebrate cultures and traditions, and to reinforce ongoing campaigns aimed at social justice. Accordingly processions are connected to other localities and wider political issues and processes (i.e. the link between the local, national and the international).
6.27 It is important to note the problematic impact of the use of simplistic concepts (i.e.'Irish Republican' and 'Loyalist') when referring to the public processions which take place across Scotland. This binary categorisation is generally insufficient in capturing the complexities that exist across and within processing organisations and significant misrepresentations can occur when disparate groups are incorporated into homogenous categories.
6.28 Media organisations, a significant proportion of the general public, and many professionals frequently mistake the identity of organisations. For example, the Orange Order is often erroneously associated, in the minds of the general public, with a range of Loyalist organisations which may be separate entities (although individuals may be a member of several Loyalist organisations). One respondent noted that "the Protestant 'side' is far from homogenous" (interview). To the general public, processions may be perceived as one and the same, so that processions by a number of different organisations which take place within a short time-frame may be perceived as cumulative processions by one organisation. In this respect, the loyal orders (Orange Order, Grand Black Chapter, Apprentice Boys of Derry) are often grouped together in the eyes of the general public.
6.29 This can be problematic when a procession is associated with disorder, subsequently incorrectly attributed. The disturbance at the Pride of Govan 30th Anniversary procession was reported in the media as 'Trouble at Orange Parade' (newsnetscotland.com 21 September 2013). Similarly, media reporting often presents a binary opposite, for example portraying the counter-demonstrators as 'Republicans' when in fact, this also included local people who wished to oppose the procession, given its routing through an area that had a traditionally high proportion of Catholics and people of Irish descent living there (comments in response to newsnetscotland.com 21 September 2013).
6.30 Similarly, Irish Republican organisations receive similar treatment despite very real differences, and some animosity, between different organisations within this rubric. One interviewee noted:
The thing for me is that a lot of people don't know the difference (between Republican groups) - they will say to me 'oh we seen your boys marching last week' and it had nothing to do with us (interview).
6.31 On-line research, which provides an opportunity to access discussion groups and forums, illustrates divisions among particular groupings that are often erroneously 'lumped' together. For example, it was clear that the 'Republican community' was divided on the issue of the Irish Republican Band Alliance procession which took place in Airdrie on 13 July 2013. And taking place on the same day as the Cairde na h'Eireann procession in Coatbridge highlighted the differences between these Republican communities and the situated-ness of the events themselves. The atmosphere in Coatbridge in the afternoon was more family-friendly and community-orientated. It had been organised by people who lived in the local area; a factor that did not apply to the Airdrie event serving to increase the animosity to the Airdrie event in the local area (as evident from letters of protest sent to local Councillors and the local authority).
6.32 The symbolism and meaning of events is varied. While organisations with a religious basis (i.e. the Orange Order, Grand Black Chapter) hold public processions to mark specific events and to commemorate occasions of cultural/historical significance, often laying wreaths at cenotaphs; other organisations such as those with a Republican basis tend to hold processions to draw attention to particular campaigns or to commemorate events such as the Easter Uprising and the Hunger Strikes. Accordingly, the tone and nature of the events varies considerably.
6.33 Irish Republican processions to highlight anti-Irish racism or particular social justice issues are more sombre affairs, although people participating or observing/following greet each other warmly, sharing a laugh and a joke. The procession itself constitutes an act of resistance, a political act in relation to a specific social justice issue, rather than as a celebration of culture. Although events are organised around these processions to highlight particular issues, it was evident that limited information is distributed on the procession itself meaning that people who come upon the procession may not be aware of its significance or meaning.
6.34 The Coatbridge event organised by Cairde na h'Eirean had a specific commemorative and social justice issue as a focus for the event, which was led by family members seeking redress. There was a clear attempt to create a respectable and dignified atmosphere. This was exemplified by frequent reminders by the organisers that this was 'not a football match' and by the steward stating that Cairde na hÉirean were trying to create a 'dignified procession'.
6.35 For members of the Orange Order, their processions were viewed as: "a joyous occasion, a day for people to meet up and enjoy themselves and to celebrate our culture and heritage" (focus group). Unlike Irish Republican events which were campaign-oriented, Orange Order events had a religious focus. One participant commented:
We are a Christian organisation, we are led by an open bible and to walk the streets with an open bible and our banners flying is a privilege for us, an honour (…) I'm walking for my faith, not just my religion" (focus group participant).
6.36 One of the challenges for all organisations is that their processions attract followers who may not share the meaning that members of the organisation attach to the procession, or even appreciate what the focus of the event is. The processions, and the large gatherings of similar-minded people upon which they are based, can be attractive to wider, and more disparate, groups. The excitement and shared sense of identity that processions can create was evident from the views of participants. One focus group member described the effect:
There are certain points - every town will have them - where everyone congregates (for the procession to pass). That is the point you just love walking by…where they are about 10 deep and the bands go 'whoom' and at the end of the day as you come to that final point (…) you might be feeling a bit tired but you come round that corner and all these people are there and the bands go wild...you actually feel yourself lifting, it really gives you a lift.
6.37 Another participant commented: "I actually cried when I saw that amount of people that were there and it was a miserable day, and all these people had turned out and it really gave me a sense of pride to know these people were on the same side as you".
6.38 There is a significant difference between organisations themselves and the bands they employ to accompany them on a procession. Concerns have been expressed by both the police and local authorities, about the behaviour (alcohol use, rowdiness) of some bands at public processions. Organisations which employ bands to accompany them require them to sign a contract which includes expected protocols and can impose sanctions for misbehaviour (i.e. disallowing them to travel to Belfast for the July events or failing to employ them for future events). However, it appears that bands are increasingly organising their own events. While particular standards of behaviour are expected by organisations in relation to their members, these are much looser in relation to bands.
6.39 There is often a mismatch between participant perceptions and how the procession is viewed by bystanders. Where the general public is unaware of the meaning or significance of the event or the organisation taking part, perceptions can be influenced by spectators/observers who follow the procession but may not be a part of the organisation which it represents. Procession participants made clear attempts to draw moral boundaries between the appearance and behaviours of the 'blue bag' brigade who follow the processions and those taking part.
6.40 Focus group participants commented: "This (negative picture) has tended to come from some of our followers who tend to get a bit exuberant when we're parading. I think if you check the figures you would find there were very few Orange men or women who were arrested on the day of a parade, or bandsmen for that" (focus group).
6.41 However, there was some acknowledgement of the importance for the organisation itself of addressing this and some focus group respondents made a number of suggestions as to how they, as an organisation, may go about educating problematic supporters. One focus group participant noted: "It's something I would like to see happen within the institution, something I think we should be taking on board. We've got to educate people, get them to understand that what they are doing is damaging us beyond belief".
6.42 Members of organisations holding processions rarely appear to drink alcohol prior to or during an event; however band members did appear to do so and there appeared to be quite considerable consumption of alcohol by followers, particularly at some events. Although organisations indicated that they have a contract with bands which lays down expected conduct on the day, it was evident that alcohol use was significant. This was often followed by public urination, at gathering points or on route. In some cases this may also have been due to the absence of toilet facilities along the route itself; subsequently causing problems for processors or their followers, and occasionally local businesses, when people from the procession entered their premises looking for a toilet. Intoxicated individuals walking alongside processions were frequently evident and may very well influence the impression of the general public when they encounter/interact with processions.
6.43 The similarity of uniforms worn by some Irish Republican bands with the para-military may have led to the continual association of these organisations of being 'IRA terrorists' (focus groups and interviews). While this was a view held by some members of the general public, it was also a view held by some individual police officers and people in authority (focus groups and interviews). In one local authority, permission to hold an Irish Republican procession aimed at highlighting anti-Irish racism resulted in one organisation being told they could not march wearing uniforms or playing instruments (interview and focus group). This also suggests that individuals and groups in positions of authority also make assumptions about organisations which influence the way they respond to them. This misperception is often perceived by organisers and procession participants as erroneous and unfair.
6.44 As well as different groups having their own specific identity, there also appeared to be some degree of dis/mis-information about this. For example one interviewee claimed that the Royal Blacks had gone past with a banner or flag with a particularly offensive message. Photographs taken by the research team however, indicated that other than the flag bearing insignia of the Royal Black preceptory, no other banners were on display; current practice with the Royal Blacks since the 1980s when the organisation stopped members carrying any other flags or banners.
6.45 More generally, procession participants voiced the opinion that they were ill-understood by government, police and local authorities and increasingly under scrutiny in relation to public processions. This, it seemed, had an impact on the extent to which they were required to prepare for these events and attempt to ensure that things went to plan on the day.
6.46 Different levels of opposition to, and engagement with, processions exist. While some opposition may be vocal and politicised (i.e. in the form of counter-demonstrations), other responses are more passive and resigned (i.e. leaving the area for the day or simply presenting resigned tolerance). Levels of engagement vary considerably between those involved in processions, or caught up in them on the day - and a broader community view.
6.47 As processions moved through residential areas various forms of 'engagement' could be identified. While some members of the public watched from their windows, others actively responded to the processors. This was done in a number of subtle and distinct ways: some people made their 'support' explicit by opening windows and leaning out, displaying markers of support such as football strips; while the response of others suggested a less confident or ambivalent level of engagement. People seemed to have an array of subtle and nuanced strategies of registering support/critique- badges, colour combinations in clothing.
6.48 While community engagement may be variable overall, local authorities can - and have - taken action to limit the impact of highly contentious processions on the basis of the potential impact on the local community.
Addressing contentious processions/demonstrations
Scottish Defence League, A static demonstration, Glasgow 27 July 2013
Event and planning
Consequently, this new procession notification was robustly contested by both residents, local councillors and police officials alike. Glasgow City Council subsequently denied the SDL the right to process in Pollokshields, and although the Council offered alternative sites outside of the area to hold a static demonstration, the organisers turned these down. Instead, they held a static demonstration outside Pitt St Police Station in Glasgow City Centre. The UAF meanwhile gathered in Pollockshields on the same day to hold a counter-demonstration.
SDL demonstration (and procession) - Glasgow City Centre
The SDL are escorted from Central Station up to Pitt St. There are about 40-50 of them, almost all male of various ages, wearing casual clothing, some union flag shirts, a number of the group are wearing black t-shirts with logo: SDL Bellshill, one participant dressed entirely in camouflage gear. Although some of the group carry flags, they do not wave them and there are no banners on display. The group walk with police on the pavement, not in any formation.
The route is quiet, passing largely business areas of the city which are empty on a Saturday, few passers-by are around, and those that there are appear unaware of who the group are. Roads are not closed and traffic operates as normal. A couple of men appear to be observing the escort, although keeping a distance and occasionally stopping to take photos of the group. When the SDL stop outside Pitt St, another couple of younger men approach with a camera and start to take photos of the group more conspicuously. This leads to verbal abuse and threats from some of the SDL.
Opposite Pitt St the group stop and there are speeches for approximately 10 minutes followed by applause and cheers, there are no loud speakers or any form of amplification so it is not possible to hear what is being said. After the speeches, the group disperse towards Sauchiehall St with a much reduced police escort - most of the original officers simply turn back or head into Pitt St.
6.49 Whilst the SDL's subsequent demonstration at Pitt Street also involved a police-escorted 'procession' to the static demonstration site, the location of the procession and demonstration, in a non-retail area of the city centre, was such that the impact of the procession, in sharp contrast to the previous static demonstration in the residential area of Pollokshields, was minimal. The local authority action therefore effectively minimised negative impacts and disruption.
6.50 Similarly, problems resulting from a counter-demonstration organised by the Regimental Blues in Glasgow, provided a basis for the local authority and police to oppose a later application to process through the Gallowgate. This highlights the potential disruption that particular, 'extremist' groups may present to local communities, but also illustrates the powers currently available to prevent this.
6.51 Key points:
- A number of factors are likely to affect the community impact of public processions including size and relationship (or lack thereof) of the procession to the local community through which it passes.
- Communities are not homogenous, nor are organisations and local people can be affected in different ways by the procession itself, and in some cases, followers and supporters. While in others, the presence and actions of counter-demonstrators can have a significant impact.
- Planning and preparation required by organisers and authorities, notably the police and local councils, is considerable. An increasing shift to group decision-making and dialogue appears to be positive and increases the potential efficiency of processes prior to and on the day of a procession by increasing the likelihood of co-operation between all parties.
- Traditional processing organisations were generally willing to make compromises for particular events, where the reasons for any changes proposed by the police and/or local authorities were clear and understood; there was reluctance, however, to reduce the number of processions.
- Debriefs were viewed as positive opportunities to address any issues that occurred on the day and organisations appeared to warmly welcome any indication of good practice on their part.
- Attempts to notify the community are examples of good practice and though information-sharing events organised by processing organisations were not particularly well attended out-with their own support networks, they were nevertheless important opportunities to highlight their profile and its relationship to the local area and population. This clearly distinguished traditional organisations, most of whom had bases (lodges, cummain) within the areas through which they processed, and those organisations deemed as 'problematic' which did not have established links with the communities through which they wished to process; adding to controversy and, in a number of cases, public concern.
- Stewarding arrangements are important for organisations, contribute to a reduction in police resources and appear to potentially affect the way in which processions are viewed (and possibly experienced) by local communities (i.e. see preceding chapter).
- Policing strategies that place more emphasis on policing spectators, and involve a more low-key approach to policing actual processions, seem to be both more effective, and demand fewer resources. Nevertheless, there were still occasional criticisms of policing, from procession organisers, council officials and community representatives, in terms of consistency of approach.
- Counter-demonstrations present particular challenges for policing, though when demonstrators prove co-operative, and the level of policing is appropriate, such demonstrations can be accommodated without risk of disorder.
- Processing organisations, particularly Loyalist organisations and Irish Republican groupings, while not homogenous are often mixed up or incorrectly grouped together. The tendency to associate Loyalist and Irish Republicans as 'two sides of the same coin' is not particularly helpful and overlooks the clear differences in identity, purpose and meaning attached to public events and processions. This is often exacerbated by inaccurate media reporting.
Email: Linzie Liddell
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