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News ::
18 Oct 2003
Boston Police and Red Sox fans butt heads as emotions flare after Yankees game seven victory. (article 1)
BOSTON - Thursday night's decisive game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees had emotions running high amongst fans in the Boston area. The Fenway district was a hotspot for fan activity as hundreds of people crowded outside bars straining to get a glimpse at the television monitors that were broadcasting the game. Even early in the evening, police crews decked in riot gear were patrolling the area, forming lines across the perimeters of streets and keeping unwary bar-goers out of the road. As the game wound up into the 11th inning, the Sox and Yankees were deadlocked with 5 runs each. Tension was high. As Aaron Boone stepped up to bat at the bottom of the 11th, the fate of the teams was determined. Against all odds, Boone, who started the series hitting a mere .125, clubbed Wakefield's first pitch into the stands, ending the game with a score of 6 to 5 and sending the Yankees to the World Series.

Needless to say, Red Sox fans were distraught. As the clock edged well past midnight, fans made their way through the streets of the Fenway Park district towards their cars and homes. Boston Police stood by to prevent rowdy throngs from instigating a riot. Several anonymous people began throwing or kicking trashcans into the street, yelling about the loss. One angry fan distinctly shouted "Everybody riot!" though his request was popularly unheeded.

I was on the scene armed with a Sony camcorder and a cautious eye as crowds of possibly several hundred moved onto a (Brookline?) Street bridge, chanting "Yankees Suck" and "Letís Go Red Sox!" The Police mobilized across the width of the bridge and requested that the crowds disperse. At some point, "Fuck the Yankees" chants turned to "Fuck the Police," and mayhem threatened to ensue. A wave of motorcycle cops was sent down the length of the bridge, scattering people who stood in the street.

When it became evident that the crowd was not going to disperse, an officer shouted "line formation" and the riot squad took their battle positions. It was an ominous scene of silent black and shiny officers forming a wall against the chanting Red Sox fans. It is unclear just how the situation escalated to an all out riot, but as the police were given the order to move, the scene turned violent. As one male in a red shirt was thrown to the ground by several officers, bystander erupted with outrage. Some began moving hurriedly away from the advancing line of police, and others turned to face them, only to get shoved or hit with wooden clubs. Those trying to escape the mayhem but unfortunate enough to get stuck behind the crowd were hit, shoved and often thrown to the ground. It was not clear whether arrests were being made at this point.

As the crowd was corralled further down the street, the altercations between the crowds and police intensified. It appeared that police were using no discretion in who they attacked. Even innocent bystanders who were inadvertently drawn into the throng fell victims to police clubs. At one point, the police halted and formed a line across the street while angry crowds faced them perhaps 100 feet away. Several people in the crowd shouted taunts at the riot squad. Someone threw a bottle, hitting an officer. As one person shouted "how do you go home to your wives and kids?" an officer broke rank and sprinted down the street towards the provokers, clutching his club. Crowds scattered and moved quickly away, but for the moment, the police line remained still.

After a time, the order was given to move again, and the police line began advancing with renewed vigor. A young woman who was trying to protect her friend from harm was shoved repeatedly by an officerís stick, and then struck with his hand. People were screaming their rights as citizens to go where they please as police arraigned anyone who tried to cross behind their ranks. One man crossing a crosswalk was stopped by an officer at which point the following dialogue took place:

Man: This fucking guy there he's beating the shit out of me.
Officer: Take your ass home.
Man: (Pointing) I live over there.
Officer: Go over there (referring to the crowd) and start walking, now!
Man: What, I was going home.
Officer: Start walking now! Open your mouth again you get locked up.
Man: For what?
Officer: You're locked up. Youíre under arrest.
Man: (as he's escorted by several other officers behind the lines) What for?
Officer: (after a long pause) For not listening. That's what.

Throughout the night, the crowd's number diminished until only the most stubborn or devoted remained. Some began singing "Kumbaya My Lord." Someone shouted "LET'S GO CELTICS." The crowd laughed. One man asked, "Are we committing any crime right now? You're just telling us to move." Another responded by clapping his hands and shouting, "America is awesome! America is awesome!" Indeed.

I eventually left the scene feeling an emptiness greater than any Yankees victory could have induced. When the primal emotions of opposing masses flare, the boundary between right and wrong becomes indistinct. How then do we recognize our protectors? How do we distinguish the faults of the provoking masses from the provoking police? Who is to blame? When these questions become unanswerable, the world becomes a scary place. Maybe it all boils down to the few rowdy Red Sox fans in need of an emotional outlet. Maybe it's a product of the intense pressure put on today's police force. Perhaps it's the fault of the Red Sox for not winning. While the reasons behind the events of the Boston riot remain a mystery, at the end of the night it all boils down to "Kumbaya."

(Video footage and images available at
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