Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dynamo supporter clubs leave game amid racism and fan violence accusations

During my week four recap I asked why the Houston supporter clubs left the stands early, thus providing an awkward silence in the stands. Turns out there are two stories to what happened. One involved stitches and the other involves racism. Either of these alternatives is a bad one. I will try to sum it up below, but you really should go read the full story.

First some background, there are two supporter clubs for the Dynamo, Texian Army and El Batallón and they sit at the North end of the stadium. However, unlike most soccer stadiums, they do not sit right behind goal, instead they are further up in the stands with a walkway between were they sit and the lower sits. Make sense?

In addition, the Dynamo play at Robertson stadium on the University of Houston campus. U of H uses a mixture of Houston police and private officers (from a company called 5-Star) to keep order during the games.

Okay, so here are the two stories.

From the Dynamo front office:
Sunday: The supporters' groups were expelled from the stadium as a disciplinary measure after members launched objects at stadium security, which included off-duty peace officers.

Monday: The groups left voluntarily, but they were in trouble after a member of El Batallón hit a woman with a flag pole; the woman required stitches and launched a complaint.
It seems these statements were based on reports from security.

From the supporter clubs:
A woman was brushed by the fabric of a flag, but never hit by a pole. The woman never complained and kept walking, but a security officer saw what happened and addressed the problem by taking the flag away. Members of El Batallón descended on security, which by then had backup from off-duty peace officers, to ask for the flag back. Before long, at least one of the peace officers threatened the group with arrest if they didn't vacate the premises. At some point, at least one racial remark - El Batallón is comprised of mostly Latino youths - was said by an off-duty peace officer, which angered its members. Facing arrest and powerless against guys with guns around their waist, El Batallón decided to leave, and Texian Army, in a show of solidarity, abandoned the bleachers as well.

The racial remark seems to have been something like, "I'm looking forward to arresting a Latino tonight."

Where the truth actually lies, I don't know, but this is an issue the Dynamo need to get in front of before it gets out of hand. Supporter clubs are an important part of any soccer experience and the Dynamo should make sure that their fans were treated right. That said, it is the duty of the clubs to make sure all members are respectful, even if they don't feel it is being reciprocated.

Hopefully Dynamo President Oliver Luck will do as Bernardo Fallas suggests and get all parties together to discuss what happened and how to prevent it in the future. It will be interesting to see where this one goes.

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