Brilliant Celtic Green Brigade Black Lives Matter display acquired by Glasgow Museums

By Euan Davidson

July 15, 2021

Celtic fan group, the Green Brigade, attracted plenty of headlines with their Black Lives Matter-inspired display in 2020.

Addressing Glasgow’s history in slave ownership, the Green Brigade replaced the names of some of the city centre’s main streets with those of “Black civil rights leaders and Black people killed at the hands of the police” [Glasgow Museums].

Prominent amongst those highlighted by the Green Brigade was Sheku Bayoh, who died in police custody in Kirkcaldy.

Bayoh’s name was used to rename Cochrane Street, where Glasgow’s City Chambers reside. It was an important and illuminating act of protest by the Green Brigade, and now it’s being immortalised by Glasgow Museums.

This week, the street sign bearing Bayoh’s name was bought by the organisation, as part of a new heritage collection [Glasgow Museums].

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life told the Glasgow Times:

“Glasgow Museums is constantly seeking to add important objects to the collection with specific cultural significance that represents the history of the city. The re-naming of city streets in and around the Merchant City in Glasgow following the death of George Floyd in 2020 was widely reported at the time.

“The ‘Sheku Bayoh Street’ sign was mounted on Cochrane Street which is named after Andrew Cochrane who, as a tobacco merchant, derived his wealth from enslaved Black people who were forced to work on tobacco plantations in Virginia.

“The sign was donated to Glasgow Museums by The Green Brigade who made and installed it on Cochrane Street.”

Green Brigade’s Black Lives Matter protest becomes part of history; will it force council to rethink heritage long-term?

Whenever anyone writes about the Green Brigade, it’s always prefaced with “controversial”. Or, “like them or not”. Then there’s the debate about their impact on Celtic, and so on.

However, the group can now unequivocally say they partook in meaningful, direct action at a critical time in history. Glasgow, and Scotland more generally, is slowly coming to terms with its involvement in colonialism and the slave trade.

Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Yes, there were dissenting voices. However, this action both responded to and created conversation about Glasgow City Centre. The histories of street names in Scotland’s biggest city belong to some historically important, but morally repugnant individuals.

Fine, it was already a debate. Surely, though, this is an acknowledgement by Glasgow authorities that there’s a valid argument to be made for renaming these streets. If the names of slave traders who haunt the streets of Glasgow are removed, then the Green Brigade have played a part.

It’s not as if these kinds of issues are going away, either. The Green Brigade, and other prominent fan groups, will continue to highlight key social injustices. Black Lives Matter, and civil rights more generally, will be integral in that.

While the mixture of sport and politics is incongruous for some, it’s integral to many. You could safely argue that the formation of Celtic was, in and of itself, a political act.

So, if we must use the prefix, we shall. Like them or not, the Green Brigade have put themselves into a historic conversation with an insightful and meaningful gesture.

READ MORE: A familiar Celtic name pops up to help another