Go to a football match.
May 10, 2001 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Go to a football match. Police arrive with tear gas and start a riot. 130 people die. I wonder if the police get some kind of bonus for killing innocent civilians...
posted by timbooker (16 comments total)
The reality isn't quite the same as the characterization posted.

Another way to look at it is:

* violent out of control crowd starts a riot
* police try and control the riot
* panic ensues

That is a far cry from the police showing up at a game to kill people for 'bonus' points.
posted by soulhuntre at 8:22 AM on May 10, 2001

Let me guess, timbooker, you don't like police much?
posted by revbrian at 8:27 AM on May 10, 2001

I remember clearly a news report on television some months ago. Cuts from a scene of peaceful protest, to images of police firing missiles into the crowd.

My point is, how often does the police presence add to the violence? Throwing bottles onto the field is unlikely to cause such serious casualties. 130 people died here unnecessarily.
posted by timbooker at 8:34 AM on May 10, 2001

Competent police can assess whether or not their actions will make a situation worse. Firing tear gas into an agitated crowd is almost guaranteed to cause a panic; causing panic in the confines of a crowded stadium with limited access to exits is almost guaranteed to get people killed. These are both propositions with long traditions of empirical evidence behind them, and the police should have known that and acted accordingly…unless they just said "the hell with it, let's get those hooligans." Having seen the way police treat civilians in some African countries, I don't think that's very far-fetched.

Regardless of who started the "riot", the police fucked up and people died.
posted by rodii at 8:38 AM on May 10, 2001

While I don't approve of soccer fans throwing bottles and chairs onto the field (presumably at other players), there must have been a more measured response than tear gas. Calling the game, evacuating the players, arresting the worst perpetrators? It should not be that difficult to foresee that firing tear gas into a crowd of 70,000 people would cause problems. I believe the typical response of someone who's been gassed is to run away blindly.

That's not to say that the police wanted to kill anyone, just that they were reckless and used terrible judgment. Under the circumstances, why should anyone like those particular police much?

This is the fourth time in the last month that there have been deaths (or a death) associated with a soccer game. Perhaps the organizers are doing something wrong?
posted by anapestic at 8:43 AM on May 10, 2001

Y'all can stop being so defensive. No one's talking about Highway Patrol in the US or anything.

The "police" involved in these incidents are not your friendly neighboorhood Officer McGuillicutty. They are poorly trained, barely paid, poorly supervised, and they're often little more than thugs. Poor planning on the part of the local government and event organizers leads to a few unruly fans. Throw in a security force that doesn't know how to act (and just can't wait to use that new tear gas canon) and it soon becomes "every man for himself". It's a tragedy, and it's symptomatic of what's wrong throughout much of African societies, but it's passed off as soccer fans looking for a riot.
posted by jpoulos at 8:50 AM on May 10, 2001

It seems to me that firing tear gas into stadium seats is basically the same as yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theatre. The possibility that people will die is extremely high.

Sounds like murder to me.

"My point is, how often does the police presence add to the violence?"

I don't think police presence had anything to do with it. The stupidity and disregard for life of the police caused this one.

If you are suggesting that the police shouldn't respond in force to a riot, I don't think I could get behind that idea.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:59 AM on May 10, 2001

So, let's sum it up: different country, different police, different fans, different tactics for crowd control, different culture and a terrible tragedy. Now let us all share our thoughts because we've seen it on TV or read in a paper. Do we really understand what happened or who's to blame?
I don't.
posted by nonharmful at 9:04 AM on May 10, 2001

Seems like it happens every week or so at a soccer match in Africa.

Imagine what it will be like once the CAF convinces FIFA to let an African country (or countries) host the World Cup. Will the same police be able to handle those kinds of crowds?

I shudder to think.
posted by dfowler at 10:43 AM on May 10, 2001

Man if there were bonus points for whacking people at large I would be a cop ASAP.
posted by a3matrix at 12:01 PM on May 10, 2001

Remind me never to live anywhere near you, okay a3matrix? :-)
posted by briank at 12:03 PM on May 10, 2001

Don't worry Briank, I wasn't serious, well too serious that is
posted by a3matrix at 3:18 PM on May 10, 2001

Given the numbers that watch football in Africa, the layout of the stadiums, and the lack of police expertise, it's amazing that this doesn't happen more often. And there are many horrible tales of crushes in Glasgow, Sheffield, South America...

When Africa (probably South Africa) gets the World Cup in 2010 -- and about bloody time too -- it'll be accompanied by an injection of funding and supervision that ensures things go off safely. FIFA won't let its flagship be despoiled.

I just worry that there's an implicit assumption that "African == savage, uncivilised" in this thread, which is fucking offensive. And that football is regarded as the only sport with a minority element of thugs.
posted by holgate at 4:37 PM on May 10, 2001

That is absolutely not what I meant to imply. Any offense taken is offense perceived, not meant.

I find it difficult to believe that an injection of funding and supervision can cure these ills (similar ills to those that left well-trained French and Belgian police stymied and scared in '98) in countries where 130 die stampeded with panicked policemen likely culpable.

I am sincerely worried about the outcome.
posted by dfowler at 9:56 PM on May 10, 2001

I agree that the different culture argument is a weak one. Tragedies such as this one happen all over the world.

The Hillsborough tragedy in England, 1989, for example, has lead to changes in regulations and stadium design.

Therefore, I don't find it difficult to believe that 9 years and an injection of funding can prevent such a terrible tragedy from happening again.

I don't believe anyone alluded to Africa as a savage and uncivilised continent. This does show, as the forth football-related tragedy on that continent within two weeks, that there need to be significant changes before an African country hosts a safe World Cup.
posted by timbooker at 2:11 AM on May 11, 2001

No personal attacks intended. Just that, as timbooker suggests, there appeared to be a certain emphasis on African football, and particularly black African football, as unsuited to cope with big events. These tragedies are utter exceptions -- remember that the Bradford fire and the Heysel killings happened within weeks in 1985, but that wasn't translated into a judgement on Europe's ability to host a major tournament. And remember also that the African Cup of Nations has generally passed off peacefully since 1957.
posted by holgate at 5:36 PM on May 11, 2001

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