Saturday, June 24, 2006. Schlossplatz, Stuttgart, Germany.
There was a big party centered around a few big screen TVs broadcasting the World Cup Game between Germany and Sweden from Munich. There were thousands and thousands and thousands of people from all over the world. There was a non-stop flow of beer from every booth, tent, cafe, and personal cooler.
The smell of bratwurst, schnitzel, and freshly baked pretzels filled the air. It was quite warm and the sun had only begun to ease up. There was singing, dancing, chanting — and suddenly a lot of yelling. Numerous men decked out in black riot gear from head to toe moved in packs and quickly established a line between two opposing groups.
Plastic chairs began flying through the air. The singing turned ugly. Melodious insults came from many directions in several languages. Heavily inebriated groups of men punched the air with their fists and and some of the more drunken were visibly having trouble recalling the next personal remark set to tune. Loud men belted out the next line and those suffering from an acute lack of gross motor skills resumed their place in the impromptu choir.
More chairs were vaulted back and forth. A lone beer was slung from one side of the crowd and the slinger was taken to the ground by his friends who chastised him for wasting beer.
The armoured men continued to push, weave, and snake their way through and around the crowd like a thick, determined caterpillar, growing in length, ever persistent. The drunken crowd was exhausted from the heat and grew ever weary against the relentless sober line of Polezei (police). Within a relatively short period of time, calm was restored and the only indication that a problem had existed was a pile of white plastic chairs and litter strewn throughout the area.
Had one arrived at that moment without any knowledge of what had happened, one might have thought someone had tried to create a pyramid of the chairs and failed.
This is what many in the world media reported as a "riot," having gone so far as to say the fans were "rampaging through Stuttgart." The American media displayed particular gall when reporting that "thousands of German and English fans…are currently rioting in the city." This, in light of the fact that any riot taking place for any reason in any American city, comparable to or even smaller than the approximately three million of the Stuttgart area, would have involved shots being fired from both civilians and law enforcement, significant injury from fist, knife, and gun, destruction of buildings and cars, and death.
For the record, there were not "thousands" of people causing the trouble; there were hundreds.
Let us never mind that no "riot" on record has ever been quelled with little more than arrests for drunkenness and a mess of pepper spray in a few hours' time. A little perspective, please. Riots aren't over in less than the better part of a day. Riots involve rubber bullets, real bullets, packed emergency rooms, and arrests for assault, arson, and homicide.
The incident in Stuttgart was a heated exchange of words, over-dramatized by those who weren't even there. At most, it was a brawl between two rivals — rivals known to, prepared for, and taken care of in a professional and timely manner.
My host nation's generous accommodations and fast-acting, well-prepared law enforcement needn't be slandered and dragged through the mud to sell newspapers and attract viewers. The very least the world reporters could have done was to have been there before doing that.
Ich Liebe Stuttgart!