Despite denying it, video footage has emerged of Scottish police confiscating Fans Against Criminalisation protest banner at the recent Hamilton v Celtic game
VIDEO showing a police officer appearing to seize a banner used in a protest calling for the scrapping of a controversial anti-bigotry law designed to stamp out offensive behaviour at matches in Scotland is to be used in a complaint about how Police Scotland handled the demonstration.
The force had said that no banners were confiscated at the Hamilton v Celtic match on Sunday, which became the focus of a Fans Against Criminalisation protest. But video has now emerged of officers appearing to take a banner off fans.
Six teenage boys, the youngest of which was 14, had the banner saying, “SNPolice Scotland. FoCUS on your Failings Not on Football” and were trying to display it in the ground by throwing it over an outside fence, after being turned away from the turnstile.
The footage is now to become the focus of an official complaint by the FAC to Police Scotland over their handling of the protest. The group say they are concerned that after police denied that any banner confiscated, the video shows they “clearly took the banner”.
FAC say their legal advisers say that displaying a banner in a stadium is not in itself an offence.
After the video emerged, Police Scotland appeared to change its stance. It would only say that an operational note for the match stated that one banner was not allowed into the stadium “due to its political nature”.
Meanwhile Hamilton Accies said that they were aware that the police had confiscated two banners. The club also said police confiscated a banner from a visiting supporter on the grounds that “it was offensive or inflammatory” and that it was understood it would be returned after the match. Club stewards also refused to allow a few banners into the ground due to size and safety concerns.
“These measures are standard at game and were removed without discrimination. We have no knowledge of the subject detail on the banners and are unaware that they were connected to any particular group or movement,” said a club spokesman.
FAC tha police
The continuing row over the free speech restrictions comes as a petition signed by more than 9000 people on online and paper forms objecting to the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 was handed to the Scottish Parliament’s petitions’ committee.
FAC organised the protest before and during Hamilton’s defeat at the hands of Celtic on Sunday as they continue their opposition to the Act on the grounds that it is “fundamentally illiberal and unnecessarily restricts freedom of expression”. The Scottish Government pushed through the Act in a bid to get tough on sectarianism in the aftermath of the Old Firm ‘shame game’ in 2011.
An FAC spokesman said: “The FAC organised a peaceful banner protest against the Offensive Behaviour Act involving fans of both teams on Sunday. Police Scotland yet again abused the rights of young football fans in suppressing their freedom of speech outside the stadium.
“The Scottish public must wake up to the impact this Act is having not only on football fans but on the integrity of our police and justice system.”
The video footage shows supporters being approached by police with one officer heard to say: “You shouldn’t be putting banners over the side of the stadium.”
One of the fans is heard to reply: “You cannot arrest us for this.”
A male police officer is seen to take the banner and says: “I’m not arresting you for it, I’m taking your flag.”
After one fan asks why they are taking the banner an officer is heard to say,”There’s been a complaint”, before officers tell the fans to step back. One female officer is heard to say: “In in the interim, so it doesn’t offend anybody, so there’s not any hassle, we are going to intervene, and we are going to say ‘no’. Okay? You’ll get your banner back, I’m sure but you’re not getting… because you’ve been told several times not to display it.”
She said the youngsters had been told that they could not display the banner in the ground but the youths told the officer that the security guard did not have a problem with them being there.
One of the youngsters said: “Have you not got real criminals to do.”