I have never seen some much police deployed in one place at the same time as I watched a Glasgow republican march from our own balcony on a sunny afternoon of 7 September 2019. There were officers on horseback, countless police vans, hundreds of policemen in riot gear, a helicopter circling in the air and a river boat.
The reason for such heavy police presence was to keep Irish republicans apart from Loyalist counter-protesters, just a week after a large-scale riot during a similar parade in Govan.
The Irish republican march, held in support of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association, proceeded to and back from La Passionaria anti-fascist statue on the banks of the river Clyde.
I took some photos of the demonstrators on their way to the ceremony at the statue from above but didn’t date to follow the march. John was away helping his parents with gardening and I didn’t feel safe to enter any risky situations in his absence.
After a while I heard some loud ambulance siren sounds so it was clear that some altercations took place. Apparently some fireworks and bottles were launched by Loyalists at the republican marchers. One police officer was injured. Passers by reported “gun-like” sounds and smoke.
By the time the march was on its way back from Broomielaw and reached our house the police managed to calm down that burst of sectarian disorder and the procession looked fairly peaceful again.
However, side streets were still blocked by the police vans to prevent the Loyalist troublemakers from ambushing the Irish republicans again. To minimise the threat marchers were halted outside South Portland Suspension Bridge to let the cops rushing along the Clydeside promenade get ahead and line the streets further down.
Armed with a telephoto zoom, I made use of this pause and photographed the Saltire and Irish flags carried side by side and small posters with the names of the prisoners taken care of by the IRPWA, as well as the Wolfe Tone republican flute band from Craigneuk playing some Irish tunes.
Then away they went, the people, the horses, the cops, the vans…
John warned me of the Rangers vs Celtic football tribalism in Glasgow but in our day and age I could not envision the existence of cultural soil in which the old Protestant/Catholic sectarianism could be allowed to fester here, in Scotland. Republican marches, Orange marches, protesters vs counter protesters, with police in the middle to keep the streets safe.