BBC news reports of a violent disturbance that took place in Glasgow’s George Square following the independence referendum have been challenged after images and eye-witness accounts appeared to back claims that the violence was perpetrated by pro-Union thugs.
On Friday people were shocked after violence erupted in the centre of Glasgow during a celebration being held by pro-independence supporters after Scotland’s biggest city backed Yes in the referendum.
The carnival atmosphere was shattered when hordes of Union Jack waving thugs charged into the saltire waving crowd, setting off flares and attacking people wearing Yes badges and holding saltires.
However there was anger when reports on the BBC appeared to suggest the violence was caused by both sides.
An online article published on the BBC’s Scottish website contained the headline ‘Scottish referendum: Police separate rival groups in Glasgow’ alongside an image that appeared to show police officers separating both rival camps.
According to the BBC police were, ” investigating trouble between rival Unionists and independence supporters in Glasgow city centre”.
However images and video footage posted on social media have suggested the trouble was caused entirely by one side, and that far from ‘rival groups’ requiring to be ‘separated’, Yes supporters and other members of the public were in fact attacked by a several hundred strong Unionist mob.
Photographs showed shocking scenes of Union Jack clad thugs performing Nazi salutes and a video showed a young woman lying on the ground surrounded by a baying mob as her saltire is ripped from her hands by a thug.
Some eye-witnesses have told Newsnet Scotland of Unionists launching racist attacks on people in the surrounding area, people being threatened with being stabbed and saltires being set on fire.
One person, who had arrived by train at Queen Street Station described how police had blocked off the George Square exit.
“I could see Union jacks being waved and people singing Rule Britannia” she said.
“The atmosphere was ugly and intimidating.”
The woman told how she had been on her way to a city pub to meet friends and found the premises locked down.
“They wouldn’t let anyone in or out. I explained we had been invited to a private event and the doorman let me in.”
She added: “Once inside, we could see hundreds of people waving Union Jacks and singing and chanting. It was very frightening.
“There was smoke everywhere and we saw a Scottish flag being set on fire.”
At one point, the manager of the Counting House pub warned customers they were considering evacuating through the old bank vaults.
“We were terrified” she said.
Another eye-witness told Newsnet Scotland how he had been alerted to the disturbance when he was passed by young people running in panic.
A full transcript of his account is reproduced below:
“I was on my way into town when some teenage boys stopped me in the street and said
“Are you going to George Square? Don’t go we’ve just been attacked by a mob of unionists and had run away because we were threatened with being stabbed”
“That was on the bridge near the Sherif Court. I was on my way into the city centre at that point. As I was coming up to George Square I met several other groups, all young people all teenagers, in tears in fear, running away.
“I stopped one group to ask what was happening and they said they had been threatened with knives and they’d run away. When I got to the Square, it was pretty much at that point full of people with Union Jacks and Orange Order type people, Rangers fans, whatever.
“There was a small line of Yes people that were standing on the other side of the street by the Counting House pub. During the course of the time I was there there was a police line formed up to protect that line of people which the crowd in the square broke and attacked them and I saw them flee.
“They had to run. Most of the time I was there I went to Queen Street Station and I was sitting in the Burger King in Queen Street Station and I had a birds-eye view.
“The police line was right on that corner between The Counting House and the station. So I watched the clash between the police line and this huge crowd surging and trying to break it. The police managed to make an effective line that held that corner and stopped people getting up that street.
“Before that, their line was broken and people broke through and attacked the small line of Yes people that was by the pub.
“I can say as an eye witness I saw people punched in the face. I saw a young woman who was a Yes supporter coming out of Queen Street station spat on by one of them. I saw people knocked to the ground and kicked.
“A group of them swarmed an Asian couple and were shouting ‘What do you believe? Are you muslim? What’s the deal here?’. My friend had to go in and rescue them and take them to safety.
“The other thing that also happened in amongst it … I was coming back cos I was a walking a friend of mine to Queen Street station and by the time I came back they’d broken out of the square and they had an illegal march through the city centre, they just took the street and the police just had to deal with it – there were so many of them.
“They came out of the square and came up Buchanan Street and round back into the square and at that point if you were a Yes supporter on the street it wasn’t a safe place to be. People were taking off their [Yes] badges.
“Anyone that did disagree with them, they were running over to start with them, and start trying to attack them. It wasn’t a safe place for ethnic minorities to be there either.
“This all happened just before 7 pm.”
A Glasgow SNP councillor filmed some of the abuse directed at him as he walked from the City Chambers.
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