There are many reasons to keep our parks and green spaces open and autonomous. As well as the enjoyment of lying on your back enjoying the sun, uninterrupted by noise and business interests. There is also freedom of speech which the Green was famous for.
Many Victorian gardens and green spaces were designed to pacify and dissuade the general public from politics and political dissent. Fortunately many places like the Glasgow green became the complete opposite and became the meeting places for such activities.
The very parks that were established to keep ordinary folk from politics, were the very places politics were fermented. Parks became the open university of fellow travellers, vagabonds, riff raft, orators, visionaries, that where locked out of the chambers of power, and decision making but were determined to be heard. Today the attempt is to lock May Day, away in a darkened hall. Ours is to bring it out into the light.
History of protest on the green
The Common Law of Scotland protected the right of unlicensed liberty of free speech on Glasgow green secured and respected by long tradition.
1816 The Radical movement 40,000 people attended a meeting on the Green to support demands an end to the Corn Laws which kept food prizes high.
1820 “Radical War”, with strikers met and carried out military drills on the Green before their brief rebellion was crushed.
1820 James Wilson convicted of treason for alleged leader of the insurrection, was hanged and beheaded on Glasgow Green in front of a crowd of some 20,000 People.
1838 First Chartist Rally Around 150,000 people gathered at Glasgow Green on 21 May, for a mass rally organised by the city’s trade unions urging political demands.
1872 the women’s suffragette society held a large open air meeting in the park.
Guy Aldred and seventy speakers hold meetings without permits. Police charged the speakers at each meeting drawn from two groups, Guy Aldred’s Anti-parliamentary Communist Federation, and John MacLean’s Scottish Workers’ Republican Party.
1914 John Maclean held first anti-war rally under Nelson’s monument followed by antiwar mass demonstrations.
1916 The Military Service Act, led to a rally on the Green, resulting in 12 months imprisonment for three lead speakers.
1920 rent increases led to protests on the Green in 1920.
1922 Glasgow Council Bye Law 20 restricts the right of free assembly in City parks. Riotous disturbances, protests & demonstrations amended Bye Law 20 to make an exception to the area outside the gates of the Green at Joycelyn Square.
1926 General Strike Saturday 1 May 25,000 march through the city to a rally In Glasgow Green in support of the miners.
1931 The United Socialist Movement, Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation and like minded groups organised civil disobedience on the Green
1932 “Glasgow Green Silent”. Glasgow Corporation amended the Bye Law on June 8th I932 The old bandstand part of the Green was set aside for public speaking.
1990s Workers City and Glasgow anarchists organised Free Speech Platforms as part of their alternative to the Labour/STUC idea of “mayday”.
2003 up to 80,000 assembled on the Green and marched to the Armadillo demonstrating against Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Iraq War.
The events of Glasgow Green prove that all rights we sometimes take for granted have to be vigilantly guarded or they disappear and to have them returned can be a hard and bitter struggle!