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Detained by the Warsaw police – a Lazio fan tells his story

2013/12/07

The following article is a translation of extracts of a first hand account of a Polish Lazio fan, who was one of the hundred-and-fifty-three detained by the Warsaw police on Thursday, 28 November, 2013. Today, Saturday, 7th December, twenty-two still remain in custody.lazio

 

PROLOGUE

I will remember November the 28th, 2018, and the days that followed, for all the wrong reasons. On that day my beloved team, Lazio, played in Warsaw against Legia, and won 0:2. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the match live even though I had a valid ticket for the away fans sector. This was to have been one of the greatest days of my life, and so it would have turned out to have been, but for the ridiculous actions of the police in the center of Warsaw.

GOING TO THE MATCH

We were sitting in a restaurant with some Polish friends, who had also come along to support Lazio in the Pepsi  Arena. We were talking about the match, the starting line-up, the size of the crowd, and drinking beer. I must stress that none of us was drunk, and there was no sign of us being under the influence of alcohol.

It was getting close to 15.30, so we decided that it was time to set off for the game.

First we reached Agrykola, and went from there with some Lazio supporters towards the stadium. Our plans changed as we reached the entrance to the restaurant by the Central Station. Here we noticed a group of supporters from Italy at the Hard Rock café. After a small chat, we worked out that they were, like ourselves, probably going to the Legia-Lazio game.

We went with them along Aleja Jerozolimski. with Black Marias accompanying us . The group of fans followed the route the police wanted them to take.

As we approached a crossroads, we noticed two Italian fans in handcuffs, together with the police who had arrested them.  One of the Italians was struggling on the ground and shouting for help, and a friend who knew Italian went  towards him to ask, “What’s going on?”

The policeman’s reply was: “The Italians in front destroyed a litter bin.”

The Italian asked for some water. We gave him some, so that he would feel a bit better, and he was taken into a police van with his companion.

We had thought that after the arrests of a few troublemakers, we would be going to the stadium with the police, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

lazio_warsaw

Lazio fans in Warsaw (image sslazio.pl)

DETAINED

We were surrounded by a police cordon, who checked our identity cards and took our pictures. This all happened in a relaxed manner, without any shouting or bad language. There were around 100 – 120 people (8 Poles, 2 Danes, the rest Polish) and we did what the police told us to do.

One problem in this place, was that we couldn’t go to the toilet. When I asked: ‘How can I have a piss?”, I got the reply, “Pee into a bottle.”

We were kept in the police cordon for two hours, the whole time trying to find out what we were standing there for. Why can’t we go to the match? The officers told us that we still had some time and that we’d get there eventually. I told this to the Italians, and carried on waiting.

When it got to six o’clock in the evening, we were then requested (the group of Poles) to take one Italian with the five of us, and go to the Police Station to face charges.

OUR JOURNEY TO THE POLICE STATION

We went to the police van without protest, and were locked in there for about twenty minutes.  We were left alone in there, and it became difficult to breathe freely. We banged on the sides, but no-one took any notice.

Finally, I phoned 997, to tell them we had been locked in. All we could hear was a message on the police radio about supporters who were about to set off being locked in.

Immediately, some police arrived, opened the door a little before slamming it shut,  then got into the front, and off we went.

By the time it had got to 19.00, I realized I wouldn’t be going to the match. At the police station we were allowed out without handcuffs, we didn’t struggle, and I managed to smoke another cigarette.

AT THE POLICE STATION

In the police station it turned out that we were under arrest.  We were locked up behind barsand our possessions were taken.

It was in the police station that the machinery of the Polish legal system was set in motion. First we were taken one by one for an alcoholometer test. Then, an officer began to take pictures of us to process our ‘case’ with a mobile phone.  The policemen were treating us well, allowing us to buy drinks and smoke.

At about nine in the evening, we were informed as to why we were being held: “for disturbing public peace, swearing, and throwing bottles at the police.”

We didn’t admit to any of the charges. The police weren’t surprised as they knew we hadn’t done anything wrong.

When one of us asked why we were being held in custody, they replied, “that’s what the chiefs ordered.” Ridiculous.

The police filled in papers, photocopied, and wrote, wrote, wrote and wrote again. We had the right to make phone calls to a lawyer, our close family and our boss at work.  I was not allowed to do this personally, and only to one person in the categories mentioned.

Being examined in the toilets was an interesting experience.  We were either searched through a window in the corridor, or in the brand new toilets. Things went from bad to worse. During my examination one of the officers stank. The smell was simply awful.

The police, who had searched me, showed mercy, and stopped any further actions in such circumstances. We gave our testimony, and after all the paperwork had been completed, we were taken at four in the morning to Białołęka

polish_police_bus

BIAŁOŁĘKA

We were taken to Białołęka in two groups of four with a police escort.  I got into the black maria and had somewhere to sit; even a seat belt that I could fasten. One of my mates was less lucky and travelled on the bags and shields without the option of a seat belt.  We reached our destination, and the police in the escort assured us that everything would be explained in the morning.  Białęka welcomed us.

One by one we were taken to the reception, where we left our belongings which were sealed and stamped.  After a horrible examination, we were confined in two person cells. Luckily, I shared mine with a friend; it could have turned out far worse, with some tramp from the railway station.

The first thing that struck me about my new accommodation was its smell, or rather stink. The sheets weren’t exactly of the highest quality, at least according to the smell and look of them.  The blanket looked best of all, but I thought it best not to smell it.  I thought to myself, “I won’t fucking get to sleep, at least not lying down.”

I sat down and tried to sleep in a sitting position, but I couldn’t get to sleep. A guard had noticed me through the camera in the cell, he came in and said, “Go to sleep, breakfast’s at eight, go to sleep.”

I did what he told me to, stopped thinking, closed my eyes, and slept. The following morning, as stated in the regulations, between seven and eight we got our breakfast: three dry slices of bread and half a sausage.

At 17.00 the day after we had been arrested, we heard the sound of activity and women’s voices.  I thought they had come to take us to court. No such luck. It was just more sheets of paper to sign. It turned out that the charges against us had been changed from throwing bottles at policemen to throwing bottles.  I put my signature at the bottom just in order to speed up the process.

I felt desperate. Was this really happening? I couldn’t imagine anyone feeling pleased about the prospect of having to spend one further night in here. And worst of all, was the fact that our families didn’t have the faintest idea of what was happening to us, or when it would all end.

On the third day, the Saturday after the match, we picked up our things, were put in handcuffs, and set  off. On the way to the court, one of the policemen accompanying us was kind enough to tell us a bit about Warsaw, about Polonia Warszawa, and point out a few of the sights.

 ‘JUSTICE’ IS FINALLY SERVED

In the court building, we were locked in cells yet again, but this time in a group: eight Poles, and an English bloke from Newcastle (another Lazio supporter who had come for the match, and had been arrested in similar circumstances). We chatted to our new friend. At first he appeared a bit stressed, but then he we started to get on alright. He said he now understood why so many Poles had emigrated to Ireland. We gave him something to smoke as he hadn’t had a cigarette for two days; probably, he had no idea he was allowed to do this.  The regulations were only in Polish, and I don’t imagine anyone translated them for him. I’d  accuse the authorities of treating the Italians in a similar manner.  I don’t think they had any idea what they had signed, or at least not always.

Another four Poles came into our cell, and then a fifth.  Some of my friends had their cases suspended until next year, as not all the witnesses (policemen) had turned up.  A policemen asked one of my fellow accused to admit to the charges and pay a fine of six hundred PLN.  Obviously, he refused, and asked for the evidence against him.  No such evidence was forthcoming, as it simply didn’t exist.  As a result, the prosecutor was not convinced, and those of us who hadn’t admitted guilt were released immediately. I hope that those who had had their cases postponed will also be released.

The Italians were less lucky, whenever they had agreed to the plea bargaining of the police and admitted to the charges against them, they were fined. They just wanted to get back to their homes and families as quickly as possible, and to forget about Poland, of the ordeal they had gone through and their humiliation. I could understand their anger and wrath towards Poland, Poles and the police.

I’m also angry. Now, together with my friends, we are going to make a complaint about being held illegally and sue for compensation.

FINAL WORD

I don’t understand the behavior of the police, who held a hundred-and-fifty people just because fifteen or twenty destroyed a rubbish bin or threw something in the direction of the police. When the police witnesses were asked why we had been held, their only reply was: “that’s what the higher ups ordered, those were the orders.”

I’m just  curious as to whether the ‘higher ups’ pay compensation?

Sz-n.com comment: This case has caused a great deal of controversy in Italy, and senior Italian politicians are currently lobbying the Polish government on behalf of their citizens. During Euro 2012, the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, assured the rest of Europe that Poland was a safe country for foreign football fans to visit. The treatment of Lazio fans in Warsaw suggests otherwise.

English editor, A native of the Isle of Wight, Warren has been running the language teaching company, Go! Languages, with his wife Małgorzata, since 1997. A fan of England, Portsmouth F.C. and Pogoń Szczecin, Warren will be contribing articles on football for the Szczecinian.

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