On Saturday May 2 a tragic incident occurred at a fourth tier football match in Poland which only served to underscore the fact that, increasingly, police force is being used the world over to an alarming degree—it is not just happening in the United States. At a match between Concordia Knurów and Ruch Radzionkow a fan was shot and killed by a rubber bullet when a group of Concordia supporters entered the pitch, reportedly to attack the away section housing Ruch fans. Emergency first aid on the side of the field failed to resuscitate the victim. Additionally, rioting broke out around the hospital the victim was taken to resulting in non-life threatening injuries to fourteen policemen and many arrests. One report called it “total chaos in town” with molotov cocktails and tear gas used when ultras from the Slask region came to the small town of Knurow and joined in the rioting.
Sad events like these show that rising violence in societies will be met by consequent actions by police forces. Although this seems to be an accident stemming from an inadequate number of police at the match (in the videos only a handful are seen), it is still worth analyzing in the context of an alarming growth of tensions between citizens and law enforcement all over the world. It is also worth noting that the event occurred almost one year to the day that a security guard lit a fan on fire at a match between Slask Wroclaw and Zaglebie Lubin on April 28 2014.
Polish football is no stranger to controversy. In January of 2014 there was an investigation into rising anti-Semitism at Polish football matches. Polish football writer Michal Zachodny explains that the problem “comes from the fact that most of the ultras groups and hooligans are connecting themselves to far-right movements which they take and explain as patriotic.” Thus these fans might not necesarily be anti-Semitic themselves, it is just that their clubs have had these chants as part of their history.
According to many commentators these nationalist far right movements have risen steadily Europe due to the continent’s ongoing financial crisis. But The Economist adds an important point: “Concerns over national culture, identity and a way of life matter more than material worries.” As many might know, many football teams—whether their roots are Jewish or working class or something else—were founded as representations of ethnic identities, class identities, and many others. When that identity is threatened, their fans—like so much of the general populace—will react. And as long as the potential for violent reactions remain it seems police will be prepared to react in kind.