Marching, we are marching

I do feel a little troubled today by the reports in some of the papers about what seem like heavy handed attempts to ban marches through the city centre in Glasgow. It appears that this is an attempt to limit some of the sectarian marches which affect the city but though I’m no apologist for the Orange Order, this seems to me to be a misplaced attack on civil liberties.

I remember doing a church houseparty on Iona once and one of the exercises that we did with a group that was quite mixed in age (but tending to be older than me) was to recall the most significant things that we remembered from different decades. Interestingly, one of the things that the clergy in the group (there were three of us) kept recalling as significant was going on various marches and demos. Between us, we had been on demos against the Criminal Justice Bill, war (several times), nuclear arms, nuclear power, human rights violations (Palestine, Burma), apartheid and more that I can’t remember. One of the interesting things was that the clergy had been on far more of that kind of thing than the laity, which interested me at the time and interests me now.

I don’t like it at all when the Orange marches go past the end of my street and on into town. However, through somewhat gritted teeth, I guess I think that they have the right to parade. I certainly would not want action taken to curtail those marches, to also affect the Mayday gathering, Trades Union marches, anti-war marches and gay pride. The right to march about calling attention to something seems to me to be rather an important thing.

The best response to the Orange marches is not to ban them but to take faith, poverty, youth and justice issues seriously enough in public life to work through some of the things which give rise to sectarianism.

When I first heard the fifes and drums when I came back to Glasgow I was astonished that it still went on. Those angry drums caused me that day to head off to the local Roman Catholic parish to join them for mass and to embrace a brother priest at the peace.

I might one day want to march through Glasgow protesting about something again. Indeed, it seems scarcely credible that I wouldn’t. It might be that I might want to march through protesting about sectarian marches. But the freedom to do that is a freedom that consequently must be bestowed on those with whom I disagree.

Its a tricky thing to balance the rights of a minority to protest against the right of the majority to enjoy a quiet life. I’ve every sympathy with those who have to police them and who work to keep the peace. (Though its worth noting in passing that the policing of the only march that I’ve have anything to do with organising, a Palm Sunday meander by three churches in North Woodside has always been absurdly on the heavy side).

I say, no ban on the marches going through town. What say you?


  1. I think you’re probably right, and for the reasons you give. As a seasoned marcher, it would be hypocritical to prevent others, no matter how much I may shrink from their message.

  2. There are some relevant human rights that seem reasonably balanced already, if it weren’t for the police always increasing the stakes in heavy-handedness.

  3. I rather remember trying to ban an Orange March in Dumbarton, when 70 bands from Scotland and Ireland wanted to descend on us. The courts overturned our Council’s decision, and the march went ahead at great cost to the taxpayer in these parts.

    I did say at the time that it was looking for trouble, and indeed at a subsequent march someone was charged with attempted murder.

    Therefore:”Thus, the criminal offence of breach of the peace is committed when harm is done to a person or his property, or there is a threat of harm, and that harm is caused by an “assault, affray, riot, unlawful assembly or other disturbance.” which Tim points to, would apply in my opinion to the vast majority of Orange and Republican Parades.

    I’ll probably get hate mail again, but I’m past caring. It’s time we entered the 21st century.

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