‘Delivering a safe and secure Games’ – for who?!

‘For Glasgow 2014 we will be using the appropriate mix of police officers, security guards, stewards, and military personnel as part of our planned operation, Police Scotland and the Organising Committee are confident that Glasgow 2014 will be a success in every sense, an event that will be remembered for years to come and one that athletes, spectators and the people of Glasgow and Scotland can fully enjoy.’ (Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Steve Allen, Security Director for the Commonwealth Games, November 2013)

For the Scottish ruling class the 2014 Games represent an opportunity, not only to further line their pockets, but to escalate the normalisation of militarised policing. From 23 July – 3 August two thousand British soldiers and thousands of police and private security guards are here in Glasgow with extensive use of surveillance CCTV cameras and helicopters. But what happens after the Games – will Police Scotland Constable Sir Stephen House, the man who recently authorised officers on routine duties to carry firearms (most notably Glock 17 semi-automatic pistols), take down the security fortress he has put so much effort into building? Think again!

The ruling class are aware that the hunger and destitution being forced upon communities throughout Glasgow, with fatal cuts in welfare rights and services, will lead to a backlash. They are preparing their police force to criminalise and put it down. Earlier this year it was reported that Police Scotland have been carrying out stop and searches of boys in poor areas at four times the rate of police in England. They have also introduced off road motor bikes to police disorder in Glasgow City Centre. The deeper the cuts in welfare the more Police Scotland are exposed as the defenders of the bankers and the rotten system they govern. Increased harassment, surveillance and armed officers will be the real legacy left behind by the Games.

Police Scotland are using Project Servator tactics to criminalise and prevent any protest during the Games. These ‘tactics’ were launched by the City of London police in February this year and Police Assistant Commissioner Ian Dyson has said: ‘It is great to see these tactics being used by Police Scotland in support of the Commonwealth Games following their successful roll out by City of London Police within the Square Mile. The use of tactics and specially trained officers has been proven to be very effective in detecting criminals and those with criminal intent.’

On 22 and 23 July Glasgow FRFI attended the launching of a report Britain's Dirty War on the Tamil People1979-2009, with the author Phil Miller as the main speaker, and then a successful protest by the Tamil community in the East End of Glasgow. Games Organisers had invited Sri Lanka’s fascist President Mahinda Rajapaksa to attend a ceremony. The protest by the Tamil community forced him to turn down the offer on the basis of concerns for his security.

Views from the East End

On 1 July angry residents of Dalmarnock, who had just witnessed a cyclist hit by a car and seriously injured due to ‘security related’ road closures in the area, told us how their concerns and complaints had been ignored by Games organisers with the role of local Labour councillor George Redmond (“Gorgeous George”) and the Glasgow Labour council highlighted; “we just canny get our voices heard...we are outcast in our own area...it feels like a prison”.

Residents of Kinnear Road described how a footpath had hastily been converted into a road over night as one of the only entry and exit points into the area. They described it as a “death trap...there is no give-way signs or traffic lights”. The closures are also blocking ambulances responding to emergency calls in the area with one elderly resident having to be lifted over barricades to receive treatment. Local parents complained of a decorative pond put close to their houses which has very low fencing that young children can easily climb over or through. Residents with cars, including the disabled and elderly, have been told they can no longer use their streets but must park “a mile away” where they have no insurance protection.

On 12 July supporters of FRFI and Glasgow Games Monitor held a stall outside the Forge Shopping centre in the heart of the East End. The overwhelming majority of people we spoke to said that the Games are and never were for them. This echoes the research of Games Monitor who have shown that social cleansing has been the priority of city leaders and Games organisers. They estimate that 3,000 mainly social housing residents have been moved out of Dalmarnock in the last few years as the more affluent ‘respectable’ classes are encouraged to move in.

2011/12 saw in Dalmarnock the violent house eviction of the Jaconelli family to make way for the construction of the Athletes village and also the closure and demolition of the Accord day-care centre which was replaced with a Games coach park. The Jaconelli family continue to fight for justice and the carers and users of the Accord are still fighting for the replacement centre they were promised as part of the ‘Games Legacy’. Glasgow FRFI have supported the campaigning efforts.

Views outside the East End

It is not only in the East End that working class people have been excluded and exploited by Games organisers. A worker at a popular youth project in Glasgow’s Southside spoke to FRFI explaining that a fire awareness course they run for young people each year has had to be cancelled this summer as “fire brigade resources have all went to the Games”. The youth worker said that the Games were actually excluding the people they claimed to be championing;

“we have heard stories of curfews being used against young people and locals and people in full time work losing two weeks money cause they don’t pass the Games accreditation system... I’m absolutely disgusted by it – they used our kids to publicise the Clyde mascot and then told them they were too young to have any involvement in the Games ceremonies...they are taking advantage of working class people and our project has not been given any extra funding or received tickets or invites”.

Young people in the project said the Games are “only for people with money and won’t benefit the people of Glasgow though they say it will”.  On 27 July FRFI spoke to an employee of the Show and Event security company providing stewarding at one of the events. They explained how thirty to forty mainly young people had been sent up from Newcastle;

“We’re on a local campsite...the foods pretty shit and people have been getting ill after drinking the water provided...we’re up at 4am to sign in for 5am and then are left standing about for an hour and a half not knowing what to do...it’s basically slave labour”.

Working class people are considered an obstacle to be overcome and overrun in ‘delivering a safe and secure Games’.

Get Active!

Opportunities to ‘get active’ have been limited by the closure of a significant part of the Clyde Walkway in Glasgow’s East End. A vital community asset lost over the summer, shut between 21 June - 7 August. The sporting facilities created for the Games, such as the multimillion pound Velodrome, are too expensive for local communities to make use of them.

The Games in perspective

While the sport and athletes on display are eye catching and exciting the agenda of Games organisers is not one of sport but profiteering out of sport. The £575mn spent on the Games come at a time when the most basic needs of Glaswegians, in their thousands, are not being met. The Scottish Government 2013 report on food aid provision showed that Glasgow is right now home to at least 35 ‘food aid providers’; 26 of these providing food parcels for those who have little or no income and 27 providing meals as ‘soup kitchens’ which are mainly used by the homeless. Destitute migrants and their families in Glasgow are relying on both.

The July 2014 Citizens Advice Scotland report ‘Sanctioned: What Benefit?’ records the horrendous consequences of benefit sanctions. Thousands of claimants are being thrown into a vicious spiral of housing uncertainty and hunger. For an increasing number of people, put and let down by this system, suicide appears to be the only way out with various case studies in the report detailing this.

Glasgow Universities Dr David Webster using Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics reported in April 2014 that benefit claimants are losing more money after being sanctioned than people subject to court fines ‘but with none of the protection the accused has in court like presumption of innocence, right to representation and background reports.’ A leading Dundee solicitor reports that benefit sanctions are themselves leading to court appearances as people are forced to shoplift to ensure they and their family eat.

Games sponsors immoral

Led by the SNP Scottish Government and Glasgow’s Labour Council Games organisers have welcomed with open arms multinational sponsors involved in violence against the poor and oppressed at home and abroad. Of the sponsors a significant number are involved in trading with and aiding Apartheid Israel going against the international calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Most notably sponsors include arms firm Selex ES which supplies ‘surveillance radar for the Hermes 450, an armed drone used by the Israeli military’ and G4S, which staffs Israeli torture prisons. The notorious multinational ATOS, still carrying out government contracts to cut the benefits of sick and disabled people in Britain have been openly endorsed by city leaders.

Papering over the cracks?

While political leaders have tried to use the Games as a tool of distraction, to paper over the ever deepening cracks in the ‘were all in it together’ rhetoric, in practice they are only serving to reinforce the consciousness of working class people about the ruthless and unaccountable nature of ruling class power in capitalist society. For all the high falutin arrogance and decorations -‘Atos: Bring it on’ flags and sudden re-painting of walls throughout the city – the stench of hypocrisy and injustice is overwhelming.

Power to the people!
No to the police state!
Commonwealth Games – Commonwealth Shame!

Dominic Mulgrew

 

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