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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Minority blamed for pool violence
Police outside pool
There were violent scenes outside the pool
Police have blamed a hardcore minority for the violence which erupted during a demonstration over the closure of a Glasgow swimming pool.

Five police officers and one protester were injured when violence flared outside Govanhill Swimming Baths, in Glasgow, on Tuesday night.

An organised campaign to reverse the city council's decision to close the pool has been going on for more than five months and has seen protesters occupy the building.

On Tuesday morning sheriff's officers and police moved in to evict the demonstrators and later in the day council workmen began to board up the building.

Police officer and protester
The protest grew more intense in the evening
But trouble flared during the evening protest.

Protesters, who have a campaign group called Southside Against Closure, have accused the police of heavy-handed tactics, an allegation denied by Strathclyde Police .

One of the campaigners, Fatima Uygun said: "We want an inquiry into the behaviour of the police last night, because from the size of the police presence here last night you would have thought this was Belfast or a national security risk.

"This was a swimming pool and the leader of Glasgow City Council had organised over 250 police to turn up and barricade a swimming pool.

"Now, they are so out of touch with this community, when we told them there was going to be a large number of people turning up they just refused to believe it.

Fatima Uygun
Fatima Uygun: Council out of touch with community

"Yet, they still had 250 police here and on horseback, with riot gear, with batons and they have injured people and hurt people."

Ms Uygun added that she believed the police had behaved in a "disgraceful and shameful" way.

On Wednesday morning there were six police officers left at the swimming pool, on Glasgow's south side, and all the windows were covered by brown metal shutters.

Colin McKerracher, Assistant Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, said officers had been subjected to "mindless and unnecessary violence" during the protest at the pool.

He said the demonstration had been hijacked by a minority of violent youths.

Mr McKerracher also defended the large police presence as necessary to maintain order and safety, saying officers had shown restraint throughout.

He said: "A peaceful protest outside the baths was hijacked by a minority of violent youths whose sole intent was to intimidate and injure police officers.

"The majority of those youths have never had anything to do with Govanhill baths and the protest there.

"The large number of police officers were there in response to the aggressive nature of some violent youths and to support the officers who had been called to keep public order as sheriff officers and council officials carried out their work.

"The officers who courageously stood in the line were subjected to hours upon hours of physical and verbal abuse.

Assistant Chief Constable Colin McKerracher
Colin McKerracher: Police conducted themselves well

"Protesters were throwing stones, bottles, nuts and bolts, and eggs at the officers."

The senior officer added: "Although many were spat upon and had their shins kicked, they conducted themselves in a thoroughly professional manner, showing restraint throughout."

Mr McKerracher denied any officers had been in riot gear and he said video footage of the disturbance would be studied and arrests made.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council condemned the actions of the demonstrators and described last night's scenes as "disgraceful".

'We need to get on'

He said a legal challenge by the protesters against the eviction order obtained by the council had failed.

"The scenes of violence and near riots are really down to the fact that the protesters were refusing to obey the law," the spokesman said.

"We said at the time of the announcement of the closure of the pool that we would look at alternative community uses for the building.

"That is still the plan but we haven't been able to do that. We want to get past this stage. The protesters have been through a fight to keep the pool open.

"It is not going to stay open and we need to get on and work with the people in the community to look at what the building will be used for."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Aileen Clarke reports
"A good natured demonstration turned into violent clashes"
See also:

08 Aug 01 | Scotland
Pool provokes bitter exchanges
08 Aug 01 | Scotland
Pool protest erupts in violence
20 Jul 01 | Scotland
Pool protest deepens
12 Jul 01 | Scotland
Protesters defy eviction order
10 Jul 01 | Scotland
Eviction threat to pool protesters
29 Jun 01 | Scotland
Pool protest stays afloat
27 Jul 00 | Wales
Call for improved pool safety
26 Jul 00 | Health
Material filters out pool bugs
06 Aug 98 | UK
Pools 'put lives at risk'
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