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Council could ‘push the law’ on marches after Glasgow riot

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken warned those involved had 'abused' their right to march.

Govan: Riot broke out at republican march and counter-protest. <strong>@JustShelbyMay and @Enderbyc</strong>
Govan: Riot broke out at republican march and counter-protest. @JustShelbyMay and @Enderbyc

Glasgow City Council has suggested it could “push the law” to restrict marches through the city after a procession on Friday descended into a full-scale riot.

Council leader Susan Aitken stressed she did not have the power to ban marches and the council is bound by human rights legislation enshrining the right to protest.

But she said those involved in the sectarian violence and disruption had “abused” their right to march and said the council had a duty to protect the public.

The riot broke out in the Elder Park area of Govan after an Irish unity march – led by the James Connolly Republican Flute Band – was met by hundreds of counter-demonstrators.

Riot police, mounted officers, a force helicopter and dog units were used to quell “significant disorder”.

Responding to the disturbance, the council vowed at the weekend to crack down on “morons intent on bringing mayhem to the streets of our city”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed moves by the local authority to review its procedures around marches, branding the incident “utterly unacceptable”.

Former first minister Jack McConnell has claimed his successors, Alex Salmond and then Sturgeon, were “wrong to downgrade national action against sectarianism in 2007”.

It comes as three further processions are planned in the city this week, with one on Monday night and two scheduled for the weekend.

Ms Aitken insisted the council doesn’t “allow or not allow marches to go ahead”.

She told the BBC: “I think there’s an assumption the council gives permission for marches to go ahead or that we have considerable powers over where and when they take place. We don’t.”

The council leader added: “Human rights law trumps domestic law. People absolutely have a human right to march and to process and we have a duty to facilitate that.

“We’re at the point now, though, where that right is being abused.

“Therefore we have to consider as a public authority, alongside the other public authorities who have a role in this, whether we push the law in order to protect the public.”

Ms Aitken said the council had already “pushed the law” around marches in recent months.

“I am absolutely clear that the council’s procedures are not in any way at fault here,” she said.

“The council made the decision that the council has the ability to make.

“Over the past year, Glasgow City Council has pushed the law as far as we can on this, to the extent of being taken to court.

“And it may well be that we have to do this again.”

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