“We were treated like animals” … The shocking story of Liverpool supporters in the Senate

In the Senate,

From the window of the Talleyrand salon, in the Jones Day law firm, in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, Ted Morris picks up his phone and takes a few pictures of the Jardin des Tuileries, just to mark the occasion. For it is probably the last time that the president of the disabled supporters’ association in Liverpool, even in a wheelchair, will set foot in the French capital. Still very much affected by the events of May 28 during the Champions League final, he had to be miserable to cross the channel again and come back here to testify before the Senate Inquiry Committee along with his sidekick Joe Blott, president of the influential Reds fans’ association “Spirit of Shankly”.

It was a duty for them to travel personally to carry the voice of the thousands of English supporters still “traumatized” by what they experienced at the Stade de France. “We can not transmit the same emotions in video conferencing,” he tells us two hours before the hearings begin. In his bag, embroidered in the colors of Liverpool, he hides testimonies from “the sick, the blind, the disabled, the wheelchair users, the survivors of Hillsborough,” who for the most part feared for their lives by coming to us. football game.

In a good hour, their faces still scarred, the two men tell us the purpose of their visit: “To shed full light on what really happened, to demand that an investigation be opened independent of UEFA and respond to Mr. Darmanins lies because we can not let it be said, as your minister did, that Liverpool supporters are responsible for all this ”.

As he evokes the Home Secretary, Joe Blott tries to curb his anger. “His lies and false accusations have added to the fans’ already enormous trauma. No matter how much he apologizes, he will not erase all the damage he has done,” he said. “He should be ashamed and step back,” said Ted Morris Two hours later, before the Commission of Inquiry, these words become a demand: “We want Mr Darmanin to resign”.

Shocking testimony and astonished audience

Before listening to their testimony, the President of the Law Commission François-Noël Buffet wants to be clear on one point: “Contrary to what has been said by some in the same place where you are today, and especially our Home Secretary, England fans was not the cause of these incidents.It’s all very clear.Ted Morris nods and thanks the senator for these heartwarming words, after three weeks of denial by the French authorities.Then he takes out his papers and delivers the scary stories that disabled Liverpool- followers have given him.Here are three that are enough to understand the horror that thousands of followers experienced on May 28th.

  • “F, 8 years old, autistic, who came with his father and his 13-year-old brother, and who found himself crushed against the gate to the stadium, gassed by the police, separated from his father and his big brother in crush and who was afraid of to die”.
  • “S, 13, in a wheelchair, held under a bridge near the stadium, attacked by gangs of thugs before being gassed by police. When they threw gas, he thought the police were throwing bombs, he thought he was in the middle of the war in Ukraine ”.
  • ‘N, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was gassed three times by the French police. He has had a relapse since that day, and today he is very, very ill. “

From his desk, François-Noël listens and looks serious. And with him the fifteen senators who took the trip Tuesday afternoon. “What happened is a disgrace to the French authorities,” Morris continues. Handicapped followers were treated like animals by humans to keep us safe. Instead, they left us, in addition to gassing and pushing us, ourselves when we were attacked by the gangs. We had no choice but to flee to save ourselves. We will never forgive the authorities, they are the only ones responsible for this failure ”.

“They took us for hooligans”

For his part, Joe Blott specifies that these events made “press caves grass all over the world”, recalling whether it was still necessary, the international scale of this organizational disaster, and this one year from hosting the Rugby World Cup and two years from the Olympic Games in Paris. For this fine connoisseur of the Liverpool supporter movement, who shows about sixty European journeys – “without the slightest problem of violence” – on the counter, “the French police remained stuck in the 80s”.

“They took us for hooligans, he breathes. It was these false, hurtful prejudices that made the French police ignore the recommendations of their English colleagues, who nevertheless told them in a report that Liverpool fans are used to behaving in the most peaceful way possible. “

For the president of “Spirit of Shankly” has “to hear the French authorities repeat the same lies as 33 years ago, during the Hillsborough disaster, reopened huge wounds and caused enormous pain and grief” for the red people of northern England. “In France, he concludes, football fans are seen as a problem and not as a solution.” These words strangely repeat what the specialists in the stands condemn throughout the year about the leadership of supporters of the French championship.

France no longer knows how to manage supporters

This is what Ronan Evain, the executive director of the Football Supporters Europe Association, who accompanied Joe Blott and Ted Morris to the Senate, will say. “They were treated exactly as we treat our supporters all year round: as a threat. It is a dangerous, dated approach. France is not an island and it must learn from the best of our European neighbors in terms of dealing with supporterism.” .

It is in this sense that lawyer Pierre Barthélemy, specialist on the issue of supporters and observer for the FSE on the eve of the final, decides to end these hearings. “We are also here today to look to the future because we are able to improve. The Senate has also often been a major player in these matters, especially through the excellent report with the admittedly provocative title “Shall We Be Afraid of Supporters?” but filled with great leads. »

In eight points, the lawyer describes what France must do to never again become the laughing stock of the world and the fear of foreign supporters. Among them, let us mention the authorization of processions and their monitoring of police forces trained for this, a better understanding of the profiles of supporters according to the clubs, better training and remuneration of stewards, who are often young and poorly paid, the systematization of individual sanctions in instead of collective sanctions and the end of this doctrine (typically French) of 100% repression and 0% dialogue.

Before thanking and releasing the audience, the President of the Law Commission Pierre Barthélemy asks to give him this list so that these recommendations do not fall into oblivion as soon as the session ends. This is the very purpose of these hearings and the dearest wish of the Liverpool fan representatives. And Joe Blott concludes: “We do not only do it for us, we do it for supporters of the whole world who love France, we do it for you, for the image of your country. France has a unique opportunity to draw conclusions from this disaster “Before the Paris Olympics. Thank you for listening to us.”

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