In which the EMR
guitarist reminisces about the ironic rioting of French soccer hooligans.
BY DUSTIN BATH
My story of the most fucked up thing I’ve seen ends with
burning cars, gas masks and puking people when I stupidly and suddenly remember
that I’m in a foreign country and don’t speak the hostile natives’ language.
I was in Paris
again for whatever reason coincidentally during the semi-finals of the World
Cup, opportunely France
was playing that night and the whole city was going crazy. The whole city was
in the streets watching the game together at café. The moment was alive and
full of tension, excitement and celebration. This was a completely foreign and
new experience for me. You can’t under any circumstances stand in the middle of
the street blocking traffic in Los Angeles;
this is culturally and morally unacceptable. Traffic is already screwed up
enough as it is, the sympathetic Los Angeles “hive mind” just knows that people
have a legitimate right to run over any jackass because Judith Miller in a
dream told them to, we have to deal with people like this all the time and I
swear they see kindness as a weakness! But I digress…
Everything was going fantastic until France won the
match. At first it was exciting, cheering and celebration mingled with singing
and chants but as the crowds grew in numbers, they also grew in boredom and
boldness. Singing led to stopping driving cars on tight streets, surrounding
the car with an endless sea of people and then rocking it back and forth while
the driver inside swung back and forth cringing, terrified.
This quickly led to the younger more adventurous Parisians
attempting to flip the random cars now stopped in the street with the driver in
it. After that, traffic began to pile up behind with no escape and several
hundred young hooligans deciding to destroy cars in a bloodthirsty victory riot.
They had all the toys they needed for a fun-filled night of celebration and
destruction, and I was happy to be there and capture this once in a lifetime
I’ve seen some horrible things in my life, everything from a
homeless man showing me his empty catheter hole and coercing me to give him my
change, to a woman jumping out of a three-story burning building to her death. Understand
this is my favorite story because it’s uniquely beautiful, tragic and ironic. They
are rioting violently because they were happy!
Next, a couple of the boys started running and jumping from
car to car smashing the windshield windows with the terrified drivers pinned
inside. It wasn’t long until one of the car owners abandoned the cars
altogether. Soon it was clear what was going to happen next…
With many of the windows already shattered in every trapped
car on the street, and many of the people completely shit-faced, a couple of
the guys were jumping in the back seat and acting like they were sleeping or
passed out humorously while the crowd rocked the car from the outside. Then
they started pulling people out of their cars and driving them into the walls
in what little space they had to maneuver. Specifically trying to run over
signs and other things they found funny, like a ramp somebody built out of
debris laying around. It was actually a very inventive and creative moment for
a couple of the kids, I was proud and impressed.
At this point even though this was the best entertainment I
had seen in a long time, witnessing these artist paint their chaos all over Paris, I had a
revelation. At any moment the crowd could turn on me, an American foreigner at
the height of the “War on Terror” who can’t speak their language. It was
perfect timing for a sobering reality check because I remember feeling the
sudden heat of one of the cars behind me being lit on fire. The flames shot up
into the sky and I remember noticing how the sun had apparently gone down
suddenly, allowing the burning car to illuminate the small street with
everyone’s face looking increasingly shadowed and blocked.
I ducked out of the crowd pretty quickly after that, as
self-preservation aggressively occupied my thoughts. Not a minute too late,
coincidentally, because as I tried to maneuver out of the area and crowd I
could hear and see sirens blocking the entrance to the street and a flood of
cops digging their way into the concentrated shielding wall of people watching
the mayhem unfold. It was like a spontaneous gladiatorial arena of lawlessness
and the surrounding people although unwilling to participate in the action,
were more than willing (like me) to watch them perform.
One thing I’ve learned over the years living in LA, is that
the key to dealing with pepper spray is to not be around assholes that are
shooting pepper spray. I could smell and feel the fallout from the cloud of
pepper spray this battalion of cops was spraying indiscriminately into the
crowds almost immediately. First you could hear screams and the sudden change
in the mob’s body language. Like ants when they raise the alarm and start
moving super fast because you dropped a big splash of sugary soda on their ant
hill. I pulled my hood close around my head to block my mouth and started to
quickly run like the rest of the now panicked crowd. All around me people were
puking and coughing people, and a few of the cops had gas masks calmly motioning
us to keep walking, which we gladly obliged.
The last thing I noticed as I limped back to my hotel room
was the core group of original dissenters’ continuing their drunken defiance by
retreating and throwing whatever objects they could find at the cops. Things
calmed down after that on that particular street, but through the entire night
the whole city continued to celebrate. People walked through the streets
stopping all traffic and driving around in trucks waving flags, honking horns,
singing at the top of their lungs for hours. I remember thinking that it was
terribly clear that tonight, Paris
would not sleep.
Early Morning Rebel’s Life
Boat EP is out now on Baby Bird Records.