Saturday, November 25, 2006

From the "If-This-Had-Happened-in-Cleveland" department on page 57 of today's Vanguardia:

Death by the stadium

Policeman in Paris kills PSG supporter in defense of Jewish fan

Lluís Uría, Paris correspondent

It was a question of time. The growing violence among the groups of radical supporters in French soccer caused a death on Thursday night. A plainclothes policeman killed a Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) fan with one shot and seriously wounded another when he was attacked by a numerous group of violent "ultras" shouting racist insults.

The events ocurred after the UEFA Cup match between PSG and Hapoel Tel Aviv at the Parisian Princes' Park stadium which resulted in a 2-4 victory for the visitors. The police officer, Antoine O., a 32-year-old black man of Martinican origin, who was observing the area, intervened to defend a Tel Aviv fan, Yannuv Hazout, a 23-year-old Frenchman of the Jewish confession, who was being chased by a crowd of PSG "ultras" shouting "Dirty Jew! Dirty nigger!"

The version of the policeman and of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, which has been corroborated by various witnesses, indicates that the policeman shot in self-defense, though an internal investigation has been opened and the officer is under temporary arrest.

The policeman and the Jewish fan who he was protecting tried to flee from the "ultras," but were surrounded near the entrance to a parking garage. "Behind me, get behind me!" shouted the officer, who tried to drive away the crowd of rioters with a tear-gas bomb in vain. The aggressiveness of the group of supporters, made up of about 100 people, increased, and the policeman, who was knocked down and beaten, pulled out his pistol and fired. Two youths fell, one of them dead. Then the two ran to shelter inside a McDonald's, which was surrounded and attacked by the rioters. Several vanloads of the riot squad arrived and put the aggressors, five of whom were arrested, to flight. The Interior Ministry stated that the officer said from the beginning that he was a policeman, though he was not wearing the identifying red armband.

Both the dead supporter, 24 years old, and the wounded one, 26, who is in serious condition but whose life is not in danger, had police records for their violent behavior. Both were members of an ultranationalist sector of the Kop Boulogne radical group, which includes five groups of extreme right-wing supporters. Some thirty radicals yesterday assaulted the field at which the PSG players train; the latter had to take shelter, along with the reporters, in the dressing room.

The event shocked all of France, not only because of its tragic result but because it is evidence of the racist and anti-Semitic escalation among the groups of radical supporters. At the match against Tel Aviv, the PSG hooligans shouted slogans like "Death to the Jews!" and "Heil Hitler!" President Jacques Chirac expressed his "stupefaction" and "horror" at the events and firmly condemned the violence and racist behavior of the fans. Prime minister Dominique de Villepin spoke in favor of stiffening legislation against soccer violence.

A racist lynch mob assaults a Jew and a black cop after a major sporting event and two of the mob get shot, one fatally, by the cop. In Cleveland, it's page one with photographs and deep sociological commentary. In Paris, it makes page 57. In the sports section.

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