Hands off George Square!

The Glasgow Defence Campaign (GDC) has set up a new campaign in opposition to Glasgow City Council’s latest efforts to cleanse the city of anything resembling active opposition to its corrupt rule. Announcing a £15m redevelopment of George Square, Labour council leader Gordon Matheson trumpeted: ‘I want to give the people of Glasgow the square they deserve.’ The suited gangsters of the local Labour party have shown repeatedly what they think the people of Glasgow deserve – corruption, the selling-off of public services and deepening inequality.

In September, GDC called an open public meeting entitled ‘Hands off George Square!’ to begin organising active opposition to this entire process. Drawing in a wide range of people, including concerned citizens, Green councillors, former MSPs and Irish republicans, a programme of action was drawn up to expose and oppose the council’s plans. Since then, mass leafleting and postering campaigns have taken place, huge banners been dropped across motorway bridges, demonstrations organised outside the city chambers, and a letter-writing campaign to politicians and councillors has been undertaken. On 1 December, a day of action will take place culminating in a mock funeral procession to mark the killing off of the square. Further protests are planned at the unveiling of the winning design.

George Square, alongside Glasgow Green, has been one of the key public spaces in the social history of Glasgow. It was the site of the infamous Battle of George Square in January 1919, when 90,000 workers demonstrated for the 40-hour week and raised the red flag, only to be met with English troops and tanks amidst ruling class fears of revolution. It was where John MacLean spoke out against World War I and where rallies in support of the rent strike were held. More recently it has been a rallying point for mass marches against apartheid, the Poll Tax and the Iraq war. The council recently backtracked on a specific proposal to ban protests assembling in the square ‘at this time’ but only as ‘the use of George Square for assembly and dispersal is unlikely to be possible for the next two years’ anyway.

For the local establishment, such a public space acts as an inconvenient reminder of the class struggle right outside the doors of the city chambers. Such a space has no place in a city being socially cleansed in preparation for the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The winning design for the redevelopment is to be chosen by an unpleasant mix of self-interested Labour councillors, commercial events organisers, architects and ‘city regeneration advisers’. We can be sure that working class life and protest will have no place in such ‘regeneration’.

Joey Simons

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013


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