Photo via Wikimedia Commons
PARIS, France — Commuters in Paris were shocked recently when a group of Chelsea F.C. fans prevented a black man from boarding the metro, chanting "We're racist! We're racist! And that's the way we like it! We like it! We like it!"
These fans, who were in the city ahead of Chelsea’s match against Paris Saint-Germain F.C. on Feb. 18, repeatedly pushed the man out of the train as they continued their tirade against him.
The victim, who has been identified as Souleymane S., was born in Paris and is of Mauritian French descent. He told local news sources that he did not understand their words as he does not speak English, but knew that they were making comments about the color of his skin. None of the other passengers stepped in to help, although some spectators did film the incident.
French police are said to have been taking the crime very seriously, and the offenders could face up to three years of imprisonment if identified and found guilty. The police force is working with the British Metropolitan Police to establish the identity of the perpetrators. Metropolitan Police Service officers had in fact travelled to Paris for the match to minimize trouble and say that they have a database of alleged troublemakers linked to Chelsea, which they will share with French police to cross-check with existing footage.
Chelsea F.C. were quick to condemn the acts of their fans, calling the behaviour abhorrent and issuing a lifelong ban from the stadium against the three suspects, which will be enacted if there is deemed sufficient evidence. However, it would appear as if the club has a bigger problem than just this one-off incident: official figures from the British Home Office reveal that there have been more Chelsea fans arrested
for racists chanting than any other Premier League club in the last 13 seasons.
Souleyman himself is calling for punishment of the offenders. He says he initially was so humiliated that he did not tell anyone and it was only upon seeing the video that he found the courage to report the incident to the police. He told France’s La Parisien “These people, these English fans … they should be locked up.”
Renée Champion, Professor at NYU Paris, expressed her view on the situation.
"Such a blatant display of racism is shocking and intolerable and should be severely sanctioned,” wrote Champion to The Gazelle. “But the victim only went to the police because the incident was filmed — apparently by a British expatriate who lives in Paris and who immediately understood the context and the chanting — and we need to keep in mind the everyday incidences of racism that go un-filmed, unnoticed and unpunished.”
Champion hopes that all citizens will be compelled to speak out against social injustice after this incident:
“Fighting discrimination and racism, whether ethnic, religious, social or sexual, should be a part of every world citizen's agenda, from the metro passenger — in this case not very reactive — to the fellow football fan with a notorious track record to make up for; from the law enforcement agent ensuring that justice is carried out, to students who are committed to fighting the perpetual battle for social justice and social change,” said Champion.
Liza Tait- Bailey is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.