Same old shit...but with Nazis

Sorry, but since I'm not the greatest writer below is the best way that I could report on the events of April 3, 2009. You can see a shaky clip that we uploaded to youtube. This might give you a better sense of what this looked like before things got crazy.

I had been joking to the rest of the guys in the band that today, Saturday April 3, would be a “character builder.” This was mainly because of the long travel day, estimated at 13 hours. The day started out with a 7 am ride from Szehcfahrer to Budapest. We were lucky enough to share a compartment with a nice retired couple from Australia. Part two of the day had us change trains in Breclaw, in The Czech Republic (which we needed to ride to Olomouc). After about 30 minutes the train conductor informed us that we needed to get off at an earlier stop to make the connecting train to our final destination of Krakow. We took his helpful advice, thinking that train schedules do change often, especially in Eastern Europe.
We exited the train in the small town of Prevov, CZ finding that we had 2.5 hours until the our connecting train to Krakow. It was decided that we would try to venture into the town and find a nice late lunch and burn some time.  As we walked out of the train station we recognized swat team riot police mounting in front the of the station. Thinking not too much of it we continued out of the station looking at some of the shops and restaurants surrounding the station, however they all seemed to be closed (odd for a Saturday afternoon right?). As we proceeded further we found even more police in full riot gear and finally one stopped us and relayed that a neo-Nazi skinhead rally was happening and that we should go back to the train station.

Of course without haste we hauled our asses back to the station, believing that we would be safe there since the rally would probably be headed to some type of town square or city hall. As we retuned to the station armored vehicles and attack dogs were mounting and our nervousness began to build. We also began to notice an increasing amount of young bald men in black clothingand combat boots circling around the area we were huddled at.  The suspicious behavior was reinforced when we saw one of them coming into “check train schedules” holding a bullhorn.

Not knowing what to do for the next 2 hours we really started to get freaked. That’s when Tim Haldeman went to the front of the station and saw a few hundred skinheads amassed outside of the station and a line of swat team police in front of the station doors.

Of course this didn’t sit well and was even further freakish when finally we heard the sounds of chanting from the street, within minutes we heard loud booms (which turned out to be the sounds of tear gas being fired), within seconds hundreds of skinheads came running around the train station right towards us. The riot police followed them and we were swept up in the madness. The skinheads came prepared throwing bottles and rock, some even had gas masks.  We were caught in a slight moment of in-decision wondering what to do – go towards the police or run from the whole situation. Going towards the police would, out us in the middle of an uncertain situation, so we ran quickly ran with all of our gear and luggage to the farthest part of the train yard trying to find some hiding spot or at least a band of police to stand behind.  Being about 200 meters from where the action was really going down, we knew that if the skinheads spotted us the crowd would start moving towards us.

While standing out there wondering what to do we were approached by a large man who had walked over from a conference he was having with the high ranking police officials who were watching from a distance (it turned out he was part of the police force). Even though his English was poor, he stated the obvious and said we were not safe here.  We followed him across the tracks and behind a wall where the police had set up a small command center. There was also a 2 story narrow building, which seemed to have been an emergency center for the station years ago. He was able to persuade a woman inside the building to let us hide in a small room until the riot ended.  For about two hours we paced and worried about what was going to happen. Would we make our train? Would the mob find us? We were convinced that we needed a police escort to the platform when and if our train arrived. It was beyond unsettling.  Especially for Greg Ward and myself seeing that we’ve been no stranger to racial issues (profiling, comments etc) but this was something different and in the time we had it made us contemplate the struggles of so many before. Of course for us, it is the American civil rights struggle that people seem to think is over since Obama is in office. But, especially in Europe (eastern and western) there are still the remnants of the Jew and gypsy struggles to survive, and in contradiction in the Middle East the Israeli/Palestinian struggle. I could go on and on, but at one point while cowering in a 12x12 room I asked Greg and myself would we have had the courage to march in Selma or even Chicago?

I don’t know if I can be grateful enough to those who did and continue to, but it really made that fact that I exist possible.

Back to the story.

Our friend who was helping us informed us that the riot had died down and that it was time to make it to the platform for out train. He arranged for us to be escorted by 3 swat team officers, however there were still skin head’s hanging in the train station area. Of course being spotted they ran for our platform and boarded the same train as we did.  Even more unfortunately our seats were at the other end of the train from where we were boarding. Having to make our way down the narrow 3-foot corridor with the intention to bribing our way into the first class car we inevitably encountered the racists headed the opposite way. Of course they were searching us out for a confrontation. Greg led the way and since he’s slight and didn’t have much baggage he managed to squeeze by the line of bald Nazis headed towards us, while only being pushed and yelled at. I, however, having my cymbals did not manage to be able to slide through their advancement. Both Jason Roebke and Tim Haldeman were behind me and we were pushed as we tried to make it through and were shoved into a compartment that was occupied by a German family. It was obvious that they were try to egg us on into an altercation, but we deferred and simply got out of their way since they were “trying to pass”
Although we did get shoved and pushed around and at the most a few comments to the effect of

“Go back to your own country!”

The skinheads passed by and we left the compartment to continue hustling to the first class car, however as we moved towards the next car we found it to be locked! Of course we thought this was a set up because right behind us was the group of skinheads coming back for their second run at us. We were for sure this was going to be a showdown. Placing down our luggage we got ready throw down, but right at that moment the train conductor came from the other side fixed the door and let us through. He then proceeded to stop the skinheads from advancing while we were ushered into a reserved car with to polish women.  We quickly closed the curtains and braced ourselves for more harassment. Since we drew the curtains to the compartment our sight lines were only able to see advancing feet. As were heard the chanting and shout of the skinheads at one end of the train we started to hear rumbling footsteps, finally 2 sets of black combat boots were noticed standing outside of our compartment. Suddenly the door flew open and the curtain thrown back….
The biggest sense of relief was felt we saw that the boots belonged to 2 swat team officers, who must have been assigned to the train to keep watch on us. For the next hour we kept our eyes open at each stop watching for skinheads exiting the train as we came closer and closer to crossing the Polish border. We’re not sure if they were kicked off by the Police or if they finally gave in and called it a day, but by the time we got to Poland 1.5 hours later, we finally had the courage to check out the train, which by that time had no signs of ever having been disrupted.

One question still seems to bother us. Why did a skinhead rally stop at the train station? It tunred out that the train we actually got on was going to Warsaw not Krakow. We had to get off in Katowice so that we could get a train finally to Krakow. Was the train conductor who told us to get off in Prevov in on it? Did the mob have pre-knowledge that two black men were going to be comng to the small train station there?


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