George Square: Charity Not Chanting

On the evening of September 19th, in the wake of Scotland’s Independence referendum, Glasgow’s George Square was to become the site of violent clashes between aggressive unionist groups, Yes campaign supporters and the police.

Since the disturbance, the internet has been saturated with videos depicting a crowd estimated to contain up to 700 people, many draped in union flags, engaged in sectarian and homophobic chanting in addition to more serious assaults and acts of violence.

The widespread nature of the unrest was so great that despite a considerable police presence, pubs and restaurants near George Square were forced to secure their doors around 8pm and urge their customers to remain inside until order had been restored. Queen Street train station and the Buchanan Street subway station were also closed temporarily in the interest of public safety.

Strathclyde Police have reportedly made 20 arrests on a variety of charges including breach of the peace and public disorder but the violence nonetheless marked a thoroughly disappointing and utterly regrettable end to an otherwise peaceful and politically vibrant referendum.

In response to the events of the previous night, the charitable organisation Glasgow’s Needy staged an impromptu sit down protest on September 20th at George Square, urging participants to donate groceries to be distributed at a number of Glasgow’s food banks.

Perhaps galvanised into action by collective condemnation of the unrest which had taken place upon the square only hours before, Glaswegians have since shown an astonishing level of support, donating nearly one thousand shopping bags containing approximately £50,000 worth of food to the collection point at George Square.

The campaign has drawn criticism from some however, notably Labour MP Eric Joyce of Falkirk. Joyce labelled the collection point at George Square ‘poverty porn’ on his website, denouncing the movement for its self-promotion and for pandering to public sympathies.

Joyce’s comments seem to have done little to dent the credibility of the food drive however which has advanced into its second weekend unimpeded. George Square continues to function as a drop off point, for Glasgow’s Needy, accepting food donations for the city’s impoverished citizens.

[Matthew Crichton]

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