I JOINED THE riot, a new member seamlessly merging into the madness. Suffocating, lung wrenching and always at the mercy of a stray elbow, as shouting and screams coated the square. My feet were trampled on constantly, body jostling from side to side like an open air subway at rush hour.
Bandanas covered mouths and rocks and missiles were being palmed by some of the protesters who weren’t holding banners. A raucous chant started up, spreading like bird call.
‘We will never change! We will never change!’
Floodgates opened and adrenaline cascaded inside me as I got caught up in the imminent melee.
What change? It didn’t matter. I was a part of this beast, this volatile crowd of…I don’t know…but I felt like I belonged. I was the in crowd. And those policemen at the front were the enemy. I couldn’t help but get sucked into this alluring horde, the saying ‘safety in numbers’ didn’t quite match this euphoria – we were invincible.
I was feeling angry about something I wasn’t aware of. I wanted to be violent…if the anger of the mob could flow out forming a physical sea the authorities would have already been swept away and eradicated: DNA dissolved in an ocean of acid.
Us and them.
Chants echoed in my ear drums, pounding and pounding, rhythmical, a metronome for our merry dance with no left feet. You couldn’t call it music – this was tribalesque blood pumping noise, the equivalent of banging on trash can lids.
Us and them.
Fuck it. I grabbed an unclaimed rock off the ground, nearly being trampled in the process. I wielded it and raised it aloft, as if it were a rare jewel worthy of drawing attention to. Roars grew louder quickly as those nearby saw my rock. They didn’t talk directly to me but I knew what they were saying with their bulging eyes – ‘Throw it!’
It felt weighty in my hand. I’d need my fingers to wrap around it and a decent backswing to reach a target. I waited for my moment. To be steady. Poised. Balanced. And with all my might I put my arm back and heaved with all my energy. Slow motion ensued. I watched mesmerised as it spun and rotated against the blue sky. As if space was its final destination, an asteroid in reverse. Then it arced. I couldn’t even see in front of me to see where it would land. A throng of hundreds obscured my view.
Suddenly it was gone. I was swallowed up by the baying mob once more, no longer a courageous rock wielding hero, who grew a third bollock amidst the chaos.
And then…a huge shout spread like a tsunami, a victorious uproar traveled fast as light from front to back.
What happened? I was blind.
Suddenly shots rang out. Rubber bullets or lead? Tear gas canisters were fired with abandon into us, trying to break this monster apart, to weaken us and subdue us. It worked. Minutes later the streets were empty. I ran as fast as I could, finding refuge in an internet cafe several miles away. There were several men with shaven heads who had the same idea, following my lead.
Trying to remember the crazy events I recalled all the skin heads, just like the two guys who were looking at me, like I was some hero. I wanted to be sick all over the keyboard as I looked blankly at the screen, sweating, breathing raspily. They knew it was me! Somehow they knew, of the thousands present I was recognised as the rock hurler. The two gave me a thumbs up as they chatted nervously. What had I done?
Earlier, a rock had hit a high ranking police officer, killing him stone dead. He’d stood behind the riot squads without a helmet. No matter how hard headed you have to be to become a captain, a rock is a rock and a skull isn’t thick enough. I’d later find out he had a family of four, one of which was wheelchair bound with cerebral palsy. I should have known. His wife merely asked for the perpetrator to come forward in the dailies, that all she wanted was justice for her and the children.
Of course the press went crazy. For them this was a news story the carcass of which they’d pick to pieces until only bones remained. It wasn’t like I’d single handedly given neo-nazis a bad name, they’d done that themselves for decades. But the guilt. It ate me up from the inside. A known secret trying to tunnel its way to the surface. Parasitic in nature, desperate to escape its host, to find another warm body and whisper my unthinkables, to share, because sharing is caring isn’t it?
People passed me in the street and smiled or winked, flashing nazi tatoos at me like I was one of them. They knew. They could end my life, ruin it so very easily. But they didn’t. I was an anonymous in the real world, but amongst the shaven heads I was some sort of Messiah, an underground hero. I was one of them. We had shared an experience as one, as thousands.
I looked deep into the mirror then down, as a drop of blood coloured the foamy water in the wash basin, running from a nick on my freshly shaven head. Resting on the other side of the sink was a police badge asking one question – Just how deep undercover did I want to go?