12 May 2019
Photograph: Taylor Robertson
A silent protest was held outside St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Glasgow yesterday in response to Glasgow City Council’s decision not to reroute an Orange walk away from the religious site.
The event took place on Abercromby Street, Calton at 4.45pm and was attended by more than 80 people. It was planned to coincide with a march organised by Dalmarnock O&P No50 District, which began at 5pm on Tullis Street, Bridgeton.
The march passed the church at approximately 5.15pm. There was significant police presence, consisting of several riot vans and officers in unmarked cars and on horseback.
Video: Taylor Robertson
The peaceful demonstration was organised on Friday 10 May by Call It Out, a group campaigning against anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism in Scotland.
Speaking to the Sloth, Jeanette Findlay from Call It Out said: “Both the council and the police have it in their power to use the existing legislation to balance the different rights of different groups of citizens.
“We want them to use that to permanently reroute anti-Catholic marches away from Catholic Churches of which there are fewer than 60 in a city with 2,500 streets.”
Police officers on Abercromby Street. Photograph: Taylor Robertson
A similar peaceful protest was held on 16 February 2019 outside St. Alphonsus’ Church on London Road.
When asked about the effectiveness of silent protests, Findlay said: “In and of themselves, they won’t solve the problem but they are our way of bearing witness to the hatred that our community has to face and to say you will not do it without us standing there to call out your hatred.”
She added: “I would like there to be a time when people don’t feel the need to belong to anti-Catholic organisations, but until that time I would like those organisations to voluntarily change their routes or, if they won’t, for the council to enforce routes which do not conflict with the rights of our community to live free from displays of hatred and aggression.”
Police vans further down Abercromby Street. Photograph: Taylor Robertson
Seamus Fallon, 43, attended the demonstration yesterday. He said: “We just think it’s a disgrace that there’s so much funds being provided for them in this day and age. There’s a lot more things in Glasgow they could be providing the funds for.”
He added: “That’s a march of hate, a sectarian march, an anti-Catholic march. There won’t be any anti-Protestant marches, and if there was, we’d attend a protest against them. It’s not right.”
Another protester said: “Over 200 marches a year – enough’s enough. Nobody’s saying they don’t have a right to march, but it’s excessive. And it’s time the council curbed that.”
Members of Dalmarnock O&P No50 District outside St. Mary’s on Abercromby Street. Photograph: Taylor Robertson
Just last month, Glasgow City Council rerouted a march planned to pass both St. Mary’s and St. Alphonsus’ on Easter Sunday.
Following this decision by the council, the march was cancelled by its organisers, the Apprentice Boys of Derry.
In response, Call It Out said: “This underlines what we have always said: these marches are anti-Catholic and the purpose of them is to intimidate Catholics.”
A statement released by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland in November 2018 condemned the introduction of “no-go religious zones in Scotland.” It also cited a “possible undercurrent of sectarian bigotry within the city chambers and out into the branches of the SNP.”
According to the statement: “A number of parades by the Orange Order, or by other organisations that are Protestant in nature, have been refused permission to march down streets in Glasgow where there is a Roman Catholic Church. Even when organisers have offered to walk past when the church is empty and closed, this has been rejected and the organisers have been prevented from marching – purely because of their religion.
It added: “Something is happening in Glasgow, and it seems the nationalists are at the core of the troubles. A dangerous alliance is forming to work against Protestant Orangemen and hidden hatred seems to now be crossing over into blatant bigotry.”
In February 2019, a 24-year-old was jailed for 10 months after pleading guilty to spitting on Canon Thomas White outside St Alphonsus’ Church during a planned march in July last year.
At the time, the court was informed that the defendant, Bradley Wallace, had accepted his crime was motivated by anti-Catholicism.
In a statement released on 9 July 2018, Grand Master of the Orange Lodge of Scotland, Jim McHarg, condemned the attack.
He said: “I, like so many others, was appalled to hear the reports of the incident that happened outside St. Alphonsus’ Church in Glasgow.
“Verbal abuse is in itself unacceptable, but allegations of spitting is vile and disgusting, and we hope those involved are brought to justice.”
Protesters displaying a banner. Photograph: Taylor Robertson
A number of Orange Order processions are due to pass St. Mary’s again this month. According to Call It Out, further demonstrations will be held.