TIME to stand and stare is a rarity but, on Sunday in George Square, for the first time, I paused to take a look at the heart of Glasgow and what it contains.

I must have walked through the square hundreds of times but have never stopped to really take in what sits on the plinths, what is written on the plaques and what adorns the front of Glasgow City Chambers.

But then, it's the first occasion in my time living and working in the city that hundreds of people have shown up with the expressed purpose of protecting the works on display in the Square.

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Protect them from what? Excellent question.

Since the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, an unarmed black man, on May 25 in Minnesota, there has been an outcry of protest around the world.

Black Lives Matters campaigners have worked together in cities across the US and UK, Australia and Germany, France and Japan to protest structural racism.

It is a hard task to stop and examine yourself, as a person or as a country, and acknowledge your own flaws.

The UK has pledged to do this on many occasions - the Angiolini report looking at deaths in prisons, the Lammy review into the treatment Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system.

Both recent, both with dozens of recommendations that have not been put into practice.

It's easy to say you'll change, not so easy to actually change.

But the men - and small number of women - who turned up in George Square at the weekend to "protect the statues" were not really there to protect anything.

Some may have thought they were there to protect some misty-eyed "British" way of life that doesn't exist, if it ever did.

Some might have thought they were there to protect the notion of British grandeur that came with empire, an idea symbolised by the men who feature on plinths in the square.

These are long dead notions.

On the front of Glasgow City Chambers sits Queen Victoria, ruler of the United Kingdom when it was at the height of its colonial powers with riches earned through slavery and an empire begot by violence.

What would she think, gazing down at thugs threatening police, threatening other citizens, threatening violent harm to human beings but willing to protect lumps of metal and concrete.

The Westminster government has also moved to protect lumps of metal and concrete. Not statues but war memorials.

Boris Johnson has pledged to protect the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, despite the fact there have been no threats to its safety.

Following this fit of silliness, the Conservatives have proposed introducing a special offence of vandalising war memorial, carrying a maximum of 10 years sentence, which is more than you would get for causing death by dangerous driving.

The statue issue has become so ridiculous now that even the Labour party can't step back and try to say something sensible.

Instead, Nick Thomas-Symonds, the new shadow home secretary, told Sky News he would "support the government" in creating this new offence "to protect war memorials."

There are valid reasons that statues might be taken down, and plenty of them.

There is space for a decent civic debate about what we do about commemorations to people who made their fortunes from slavery, from tobacco and sugar.

We should talk about it and we should learn about the history of our city and our country at the same time - it's not pretty, it's exploitative and it has shameful chapters.

Those conversations will be hard.

But on Sunday as I stood in George Square and looked at all the blokes flitting up and down like purposeless shoals of fish, moving in a certain direction only because the creature next to them was also moving in that direction, it occurred to me that these chaps are pledging to "protect the statues" because it's the easy option.

It's far easier to run around the city centre with your face hidden by a mask than it is to confront your own prejudices and sort them out.

It's easier to shout the c-word at young girls holding Black Lives Matter posters than it is to have a think about why those young girls might be there.

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A simple distraction is the explanation at an individual level but shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, said similar on Radio 4 yesterday when talking about the issue at a government level: “Black people aren’t playing victim, as Boris indicates, they’re protesting precisely because the time for review is over and the time for action is now,.

"[The Tories] want a culture war because they want to distract from the central issue.”

Looking at George Square's Cenotaph on Sunday I noticed the words engraved on the side, the same words engraved on war memorials across the country.

"These died in war that we at peace might live. These gave their best so we our best should give."

These groups who turn out on the pretence of protecting statues and British values might want to stop and think about those words.

We our best should give. Racism, abuse and violence is not it. Shameful behaviour now instead of confronting the country's shameful past is not it either.