FOLLOWING the brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis, black America and its allies rose up against the systemic racism which has enslaved, subjugated, brutalised, murdered and incarcerated black people in the United States for hundreds of years. Demonstrations against racial inequality, followed by counter-demonstrations seeking to defend white privilege, spread across the world and quickly reached Glasgow.

A peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration held in Glasgow Green on June 7 was followed up the next weekend by a counter protest to “protect statues” at George Square, with tensions rising. By Wednesday, June 17, a non-violent campaign group seeking to demand more humane treatment for asylum seekers was attacked by a marauding gang of far-right loyalist thugs, with all pretence of control of the situation abandoned. Footage broadcast across social media horrified all reasonable onlookers, looking like an early scene in World War Z, filmed in the same location. Loyalists howled “fenian b******s’’ as they sought confrontation with the hugely outnumbered left-wing demonstrators.

This is where the narrative shifts in Scotland, unfortunately. As soon as anti-Irish racism enters the fray, we see the commentariat reaching for the”S” word. The issue is no longer to be understood within the context of rising global anger over racial inequality and the regressive backlash to this movement, but rather through the gaze of the more easily digestible notion of Glaswegian sectarianism. Rather than two opposing sides representing anti-fascism and, well, fascism, this was simply another example of green vs blue.

When it became apparent that a group of Celtic fans attended Saturday’s demo against fascism, this confirmed what academics and police officers already believed. One unnamed police source claimed that Glasgow Black Lives Matter protests and counter-protests were just “an avenue for old arguments’’. Michael Rosie spoke of the issue being used as a “political football” and stated that he sees these tensions as “bad guys versus bad guys”.

Judging by the behaviour of Police Scotland at Saturday’s demo organised by Glasgow United Against Fascism, they took a similar view. The demonstration passed off peacefully for a couple of hours before the crowds began to disperse, at which point Police Scotland inexplicably kettled a large group of protestors in a tightly confined space during a pandemic. Officers freely admitted they simply sought to target the Green Brigade, and offered trade unionists, other activists and one Protestant minister the opportunity to leave the kettle to allow them to do so. They all refused.

Some on Twitter reacted by equating anti-racist football fans with racist ones because they dressed similarly. Football fans are viewed as being not quite civil enough to engage in politics, with the underlying assumption of Rosie being that primarily young, working class men cannot hold genuine political views without an ulterior motive.

Ultimately, it is now time to call out the hatred we see before our eyes. There is no equivalence between racists and anti-racists. Furthermore, we need to honest about the nature of racism in Scotland, and particularly the way in which it is bound up with loyalism, anti-Irish racism and anti-Catholic bigotry. Those who propagate these hatreds and those who suffer or oppose them are not “two sides of the same coin”. Claiming that they are is an attempt to divert attention from the real issues at hand, most notably the racial inequality that exists within our own society.

Jeanette Findlay is a member of Fans Against Criminalisation