The security and law enforcement conditions at New York City's home games continue to constitute an unmitigated, self-replenishing disaster.
There won't be any blue skies in the Bronx until soccer fans are no longer treated like criminals just for, ya know, being soccer fans.
Rare is the home game in which a miscarriage of justice on the part of Yankee Stadium security and the New York Police Department doesn't make headlines. It began in March, when Securitas employees began removing NYCFC fans for swearing -- not swearing at individuals in a way that would constitute abuse, just swearing in general -- en masse.
Hey, imagine that... people using profanity at a pro sporting event where alcohol is served!
Over time, the reactionary nature of the enforcement only grew worse. Fans have even been thrown out for asking reasonable questions about why their friend or family member was removed, or for having smoke canister residue on their shoes without any actual evidence of culpability.
Additionally, fans have been arrested and forced to appear in court for, among many other things, jumping up and down in a closed street waving a flag (really happened) and rebuking an opposing team's fan that was stalking their girlfriend (unconscionable and really happened).
Let's call it what it is: the authorities, through their ignorance of the game, its particular place in sporting culture, and the unique stadium environment it creates, have criminalized soccer fandom.
There is no greater evidence than what occurred on the concourse behind the supporters' sections on Saturday afternoon. Contentious squabbling among fans and security near the bottom of section 236 spilled onto the concourse. As a number of fans, including Third Rail Supporters Club President Rox Fontaine, rushed up the stairs to try to defuse the situation, one young man found himself on the ground surrounded by security and police.
— Nick Chávez (@NickChavezMLS) August 30, 2015
— Nick Chávez (@NickChavezMLS) August 30, 2015
Let's recap what happened after the young man -- who claims he was a bystander to the bleacher altercation that started all this -- was sent to the floor:
- An NYPD sergeant named Gannon used a taser on him.
- The man's father arrived to ask why his son was being detained. He ended up on the ground as well, as the videos show.
- While the son complained that his handcuffs were too tight and were hurting him, an NYPD officer named Moore tightened them further. Hudson River Blue has seen photographic confirmation of his resulting injury.
- All the while, concerned fans tried to figure out how to resolve the incident in good faith while Securitas employees shouted "NO RECORDING!" (Which, by the way, WTF?!?).
Both detained men were arrested and will have to appear in court.
On cue, in the waning minutes of the game, sections 236 and 237 belted a very unambiguous chant: "F---- security."
Here's how one Reddit member summarized the situation (emphasis mine):
For their part, the Third Rail Supporters Club, which occupies sections 236 and 237 at Yankee Stadium, is mounting a full-court press. Last night, Fontaine issued this petition on Change.org demanding ethical treatment of New York City FC fans not just by the local authorities, but by City Football Group itself.
Here's an excerpt from the petition:
"We were verbally bludgeoned to no end about how fortunate we were to have CFG as a parent organization and told grand tales of how amazing our experience would be under your guidance. Given what I’ve experienced to this point, and quite a fine one was put on this past Saturday, I have to disagree with that sentiment.
"We are in our first season and we’re fired up about this club and the possibilities that lie ahead. We demand assurance that we are valued beyond our ticket revenue. We demand properly trained stadium staff. We demand proper and ethical treatment from NYPD. Without those things this relationship is irreparably damaged.
"You should be extremely concerned with the precedent Yankee Stadium, it’s employees and NYPD set on Saturday."
Upon this article's publishing, the petition lists 100 supporters. Among the comments is this endorsement from prolific NYCFC fan and Blue Ladies member Mei-Ling Hyler, who was interviewed by Hudson River Blue earlier this summer:
"Something needs to change before Securitas or the NYPD escalates their violence to a point where someone is seriously injured. We are not criminals, we are supporters of a sports team. We are paying guests of Yankee Stadium. We deserve to be safe and enjoy the game."
No one would ever say that these fans are asking for too much. No way. Unfortunately, there are only two escapes from this outrageous, needlessly adversarial law enforcement environment: either the Yankees and the City of New York learn about soccer and supporter culture, or NYCFC gets its own stadium where it can finally make its own rules.
So, see you in five years?
It's not even as simple as that, really. How can the New York City fan movement continue to develop if it's constantly hampered -- nay, endangered -- by an apparatus that's supposed to protect and serve them?
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We want to hear what you think! Tell us your prognosis -- leave a comment or blow us up on Twitter @hudsonriverblue. To contact the club to voice your opinion about the ongoing security and law enforcement concerns at Yankee Stadium, CLICK HERE. This club doesn't exist without its substantial base of supporters-- that means you!
UPDATE: As of September 1st, Rox Fontaine has altered some of the language in the Third Rail SC's Change.org petition. Check it out-- he gives a detailed eyewitness account of the events around section 236.