POLICE KEEP DEMONSTRATORS APART IN HUGE OPERATION
DEMONSTRATORS squared up to each other for an hour in the centre of Irvine on Saturday at the Scottish Defence League protest as dozens of police kept both factions apart.
Both sides spat bile at each other in Bridgegate Square with frightened shoppers kept well apart from the vile mob.
A 60 strong grouping of UNISON members along with supporters of left wing political parties gathered at the bottom of Hill Street.
The placard waving SDL contingent arrived by coach and train.
They were met by police and escorted to Bridgegate Square.
But they were not allowed to march through the busy shopping centre.
Instead they were penned in, marched along to the Low Green Bridge and brought up the stairs next to the Forum Shopping Centre.
Officers threw a cordon around the SDL mob, many of whom were waving Union Jacks and Lion Rampant flags.
A police helicopter hovered above, watching for the slightest sign of trouble.
Mounted police and back-up teams were kept in reserve in case trouble flared.
The UNISON contingent was boosted by members from Glasgow, who had travelled for the counter demonstration.
Kilmarnock MP Cathy Jamieson said the SDL were not welcome in the town.
The baying and taunting continued for a full hour before the SDL headed off to victory cheers from opponents.
Police herded the SDL back down the stairs and out of town.
One stunned shopper said: “This was vile. Each side was as bad as the other.
“The police operation must have cost a fortune.
“I hate to think what might have happened on a busy Saturday if the whole thing had kicked off.”
Police said they never divulge the number of officers involved in operations. A spokeswoman added: “It is too early to put a detailed costing on Saturday’s operation.”
Depute Provost Ian Clarkson said the demonstration was “a sad day for Irvine.”
He went on: “Instead of a happy Saturday shopping experience, I saw families who were upset at the vile taunts between the two sets of demonstrators.
“There were offensive posters and loud chants from both sides which could have been stopped by the police.
“At any other time, this vile swearing would have constituted an offence. It is not what we want in Irvine. This was not democracy: it was foul, depraved and frightening.”