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Slakr: Rome Police Did The Right Thing

Slakr makes sure Craig isn’t the only one confused by the anger directed towards the Rome police.

I was 7 years-old when I saw incidents at Heysel unfold. Like many Liverpool fans, the images and memory of that day will forever be burned into my memory. For a lot of Liverpool fans, that night in Istanbul in 2005 was the second most emotional moment of the season. Playing at Juventus in the European Cup, 20 years after Heysel, provided us with a chance to say sorry for the final time, silently adding closure to the incident. Though there were a few protests, the dignity of both teams and both sets of spectators during that moment should be indicative of how European football should be played.

So unlike virtually every other man, woman and child that has been given a soapbox after the events on Wednesday evening, I want to applaud the Rome police for their actions. A variety of influential and normally reasonable people have condemned them for a variety of sins, but in all cases I think they’re forgivable. Because at the end of the day, we didn’t repeat the massacres of 20 years ago.

The first, and weakest, argument we hear is that Rome police were on the “Manchester United side” of the plexiglass divider between the two sets of fans. Apparently, the pundits would rather that the police be divided around both sides of the plexiglass, halving their numbers and drastically reducing their ability to perform any type of crowd control. The Roma section was manned by stewards, who would be more than capable of locating the occasional troublemaker. In addition, the goal of the police was to keep the two sets of fans separated. Lets play a little game here: if you had a limited number of police and this duty, would you place them in front of the bigger group of fans or the smaller group that would be easier to contain? Common sense won out here, and that alone is rare enough that it’s refreshing that it did.

The second argument is that police overreacted massively. Looking at the video, I’m not sure that’s what I see. The police had setup a buffer zone in front of the dividing screen. They were on one end of that, the fans on the other. It was only when fans breached that buffer zone, stupidly attempting to rush the divider, that the police took decisive action against them. The media, politicians, and pundits would have you believe that these are innocent fans brutally struck down by marauding police officers. The video, on the other hand, doesn’t lie.

Despite the fact that they are often the most vocal, and least profound of all the pundits, I have yet to see Messrs. Lawrenson and Hanson weigh in (with the same drivel) on this discussion. Maybe I’ve missed it (and I’m sure the comments will alert me if I have). Or maybe they understand what the primary task of the police must be in that situation. They’ve learned it the hardest way imaginable. There was no serious clash between the two sets of supporters that were both clearly “up for it” — for this, we should be thankful.