Sunday, November 26, 2006

Soccer Violence

For two days the French websites have been teeming with articles about an incident that occurred Thursday night in Paris. It has been difficult to piece together what happened because initial reports weren't confirmed, one major eye-witness account conflicts with the police reports and the actual identities of the perpetrators and the potential victim were not at first clear.

On Thursday night after a soccer match between a French team - PSG (Paris Saint-Germain) and an Israeli team - Hapoël Tel Aviv, where the Israeli team won, two fans of the Paris team were hit by one bullet fired by a black police officer in the act of defending both himself and a young Jewish fan from gang violence. One of those shot, Julien Quemener age 25, was killed immediately. The other named Mounir was wounded in the lung. The initial police report states that there was only one bullet.

At first the controversy raged over the fact that the Parisian fans were white right-wing extremists and their potential victim was a young Jew who had supported the Israeli team. It then began to appear that even though the whites were indeed "skinheads", the leader was named Mounir and might be Muslim. The controversy then passed to the police officer who many felt should have shot in the air instead of aiming at people.

Some people were sentimentalizing over the fact that a black officer had saved a Jewish lad and how it showed that skin color means nothing.

Some attempted to paint a positive picture of Julien Quemener as an innocent victim. A demonstration for him was held today in his hometown Nantes. The photo above shows the banner saying "The government is an assassin. The truth for Julien."

The Jewish boy himself was interviewed by Myfreesport. His testimony greatly contradicts other reports on the issue of the bullet, but it is possible he was trying to cover up for the officer. Here is a résumé of what he said:

I arrived with friends at 8:30 at the Parc des Princes stadium. I've supported the PSG team for many years and since I'm Jewish this was a great occasion. I applauded every goal. I really didn't care who won.

At the final whistle I stayed for a while in the stadium, maybe 15 minutes, to watch the Israeli fans celebrate, then we left and took Boulevard Murat. As we approached Porte Saint-Cloud there were lots of people in the streets and in the distance we could see flare-ups between CRS (riot police) and PSG fans.

At this point he notes that he was not wearing anything that would indicate whose side he was on or what his religion was. Then he tells how the atmosphere changed:

PSG fans were on both sidewalks and shouting anti-Semitic remarks like "dirty Jews". On arriving at Porte Saint-Cloud we turned around to see who was shouting. They seemed to have singled us out. We moved on. They were fair-skinned, not very tall, with short hair, wearing PSG scarves and heavy coats. We decided to run. Every time I turned around there were two or three of them about 5 yards behind us. I headed for the bus stop opposite McDonald's. My friends went in another direction. Two of my pursuers almost caught up with me but I got away and realized that a little further on 150 people were walking rapidly.

Then a man came running from the center of Saint-Cloud square. He was black, about 30, wearing a heavy white pullover, jeans, a beret and glasses. He slipped to the ground and was punched. He got up, stood in front of me, waved a tear-gas bomb that he activated twice, causing those pursuers who were close-by to disperse. He cried out "police! police!" when he took out his firearm, after he had used up all the tear gas. The gun dissuaded them. It was the only thing that scared them.

The officer was alone. Four or five of them became violent toward the officer. I guided him towards McDonald's where I had seen police cars but when I turned around again the cars were gone. It's incredible that there aren't any police stationed there.

We wormed our way between cars. Those guys began throwing empty beer bottles at us. I did not receive a scratch. The officer protected me constantly. I didn't have time to be afraid. I felt almost safe.

We hurried to get inside of McDonald's. Again the officer slipped to the ground, leaning on one knee. Our assailants again began punching him. He stood up and pointed his gun at a 60º angle into the air to try and disperse them. Some shouted that it was a fake gun and so he fired. That reassured me because I didn't know if it was real or if he was really a policeman.

At this point I'm translating an small section of the interview:

Did he shoot someone point blank?

Answer: I do not remember the weapon touching anybody. I only remember the shot in the air. And that was the only shot I heard. If the bullet had hit someone I would have seen it. I was standing right behind him, one yard away. I saw nobody fall.

Q: Did you say that to the police when they questioned you?

A: Yes.

Q: If what you say is accurate, the bullet did not hit anybody.

A: That's right. That's why I was very surprised when I heard there was a homicide. In my view, it wasn't even self-defense because no one was hit.

Q: And yet the initial reports in the inquiry lead one to believe that the shot killed one person and wounded another. What do you say?

A: I don't know how that bullet could have killed one fan, even less how it could have hit two people in a row.

Q: Did you see or hear the shot?

A: Yes. I saw the shot fired. I was outside the restaurant, I repeat, one yard behind him.

Q: Can you confirm that there was only one shot?

A: Yes, I'm certain of that.

He concludes with a description of how he got out of McDonald's, went home, heard about the homicide and decided to call the police.

Note:The latest word is that the officer Antoine Granomort has been exonerated of all charges. If anyone has more information that would clear up the matter of the bullet, please let me know.

Photo of demonstration by Frank Perry from Yahoo.


At November 28, 2006 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He is wrong to think that he would have seen anything. Bullet entry wounds are small, far smaller than exit wounds, sometimes just about the same size as the bullet, and they close up afterwards. The bullet will often cause the victim's clothing to shift so the entry wound isn't seen at all. Add that with an obvious level of confusion, and this guy does not know what he is talking about.

At November 28, 2006 8:27 PM, Blogger tiberge said...

He said that he didn't see anybody fall. However, I tend to agree with you that what must have been a scene of terrible mayhem and peril would have resulted in confused perceptions.

At November 29, 2006 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, the antisemitism is oozing everywhere.

At November 29, 2006 9:33 PM, Blogger tiberge said...

Thanks for the link. That's an interesting article. The incident has resulted in so much emotion it is hard to take a definitive stand.

However, my thoughts are: police should be out in force whenever there's a soccer match, especially involving groups that are known to be at war, or at least in conflict. Second, police have to have the right to use their guns and people have to know this. A lot of trouble is caused because the police can be taunted and the "taunters" know nothing will happen to them. Third, when an incident such as this occurs it is incumbent on everyone (media, politicians, police) to explain accurately what happened and to repeat to the public that all parties are held to the same standard.

But I'm daydreaming, aren't I? When you have ethnic, racial and religious conflict, AND the host country is cowered into weakness, it becomes impossible to have reason. One thing we see from this is the "coalition" between certain skinheads with some Arabs and with the image of Le Pen thrown in for good measure. The pro-Le Pen websites (especially Novopress) are all out for Julien Quemener. And I would imagine Dieudonné and his like are having a ball hating the black police officer and playing upon the outrage of the white fans of PSG. BTW PSG has a reputation for trouble. This isn't the first incident.

I say - allow the police to do their job properly. A policman should not constantly be on the defensive. Nobody can convince me that the authorities weren't aware that trouble was likely with PSG playing Israel. And then, PSG lost the game. That's probably what really got them going.


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