This article contains objectionable language and verbal depictions of violence.
“Most people are ok……….. as long as they’re ok” – Louis CK
It should be said that 99.9% of soccer fans whether from San Jose, Seattle, Portland, Barcelona, Hokkaido, or Perth are decent people capable of having a beer, seeing his or her team play and then (even with a loss) letting the other fans leave in peace.
inevitably, within any large group of fans, a few people who attend games every week have anger problems, personal issues, alcohol problems, drug problems, or simply have had a bad day. At times these minority numbers express themselves in a negative fashion whether it be through physical acts or aggressive behavior. This, however, does not mean that the groups that they stand with (whether the 1906 Ultras, the Timbers Army, The Angel City Brigade) are functionally violent or aggressive groups.
However it must be said that when you mix individuals with issues with group dynamics you could practically turn one out of a hundred priests into a hyperbolic cursing sports fan ready to pistol whip a person for three points, cheap beer, and a chance to “give it” to those fans across the stadium.
Sometimes, though, it is not just one person. Sometimes, there is an endemic problem within a group that must be excised, and it depends on the group involved to fix these issues. It is in this vein that I give the following first person, eye witness accounts of a mass of fan violence that happened April 14th in Portland, Oregon when fans from the San Jose Earthquakes and fans from the Portland Timbers clashed.
I spoke with travelling San Jose supporters regarding their game day experience, and I obtained the following firsthand account.
“I sat during the game in section 223, the Quakes supporter section. After the game the guards held us 15-20 minutes so that the stadium can clear out so as to avoid conflict. They then lead us out a rear, discreet, exit with officers and guards at our sides. Once we got out of that stadium we were subjective to our fair share of trash talking, which is completely understandable and part of the away fan experience. A few different people got their ten cents in as we passed them, but then as we ventured a little further a group of Timbers fans found themselves behind us....One guy walks up to me and turns me around with my shoulder so that I'm facing him and immediately calls Wondolowski a pussy, and us a bunch of faggots. I turned around without responding and continued on my way. He continues to sulk a few feet behind me and continued to spew a verbal rainbow of just about the majority of cuss words out there. After this stops he lights up a cigarette, walks up as close as he can behind me without touching me and begins to grab his crotch and hump the air, yelling and shouting as he did. “
“The worst part was the 4 or 5 security officers/policeman that watched the entire thing happening, not doing anything to step in. One security guard heard him yelling from around the corner, came running because of the noise, and then saw what was actually happening and his tenacity vanished from his face. It was embarrassing to say the least, and I'm surprised I was able to keep my emotions in check. “
This is unacceptable behavior for fans of any team, but especially for a team and supporters group such as the Timbers Army that prides itself on being anti-racist and anti-homophobic. The Timbers Army does not allow, condone, or support homophobic language or chants and takes action against their own fans that do. A person who supports the Portland Timbers and uses homophobic language violates the game-day code used by the Timbers Army.
The good news is that this particular San Jose fan kept his cool, and didn’t allow the actions of a drunk, obnoxious, spewing fan to goad him into a physical response. There were also rumors, which my San Jose sources were unable to personally verify, of Timbers fans spitting on visiting San Jose fans. There were also accusations of items being thrown between the two groups of fans in the stands. I spoke with Timbers fans that were seated in section 220 and received the following information…
“We saw them throwing stuff, but unsure of who or what... mostly looked downwards. We were in 220. Lots of the f-word, but that is expected. We heard their favorite homophobic slur several times, which i don't like anyone to hear. “
As I watched the tweets come in this weekend, the first incident took place.
#1 San Jose fans assault James Decker in his car and smash his car and windshield.
6:32 pm – “Just saw @SJEarthquakes fans attack & bust up a car in downtown Portland.”
The first tweet that showed there were problems came in at 6:32 pm. James Decker, while stopped at a red light in downtown Portland on his way to the Timbers game, watched a collection of San Jose fans walking by. According to Decker he yelled “Go Timbers” and waved his scarf. The San Jose fans punched Decker, attempted to steal his Timbers scarf, smashed in his windshield, opened his passenger side door and punched him from that side as well as attacking him from the driver’s side. You can read more of the particulars here.
I received two eye-witness accounts of this from the bus behind Decker’s car.
“I was on the 20 bus behind the car that was attacked by San Jose fans. Unfortunately, I had a somewhat obscured view of the incident, but I did see the lady take off towards the car, and the group of dudes rush over when she fell down. I didn't get a clear view of the actual assault, but we all had to exit the bus and I saw the aftermath. Those involved trotted back to the group of SJ supporters and marched on as if nothing happened”
As well, another account…
“I was riding on Bus 20 heading to Jeld Wen field. The victim's car was in front of our bus and there were a few Timber fans on the bus. The Bus Driver called the police when the whole event was going down. Unfortunately no one could identify the San Jose fans because they wore hats and bandanas over their faces when they attacked the car.”
Decker filed a police report, and this story (combined with the 911 calls and a police report) lead many to incorrectly believe this was the only incident of the day.
#2 San Jose fans accost and assault Timbers fans in a car.
“I write this memo to memorialize an incident that occurred on April 14, 2013 at approximately 10:00 p.m. After the Timbers v. Earthquakes game, I was sitting in my vehicle parked on SW 17th between Taylor and Yamhill.
I was talking with a friend who was in the passenger seat. We were waiting for another friend to get back to the car after leaving the stadium. My window was half way down. A large group of Earthquakes supporters were walking north on 17th. There were approximately 30-40 people in the group. We were looking at them. We did not initiate any contact. A man approached my window and yelled across me to my friend, "You got something to say, man?" to which my friend replied, "When I root, I root for the Timbers!"
The man was carrying two wrapped up flags (on approximately 4 foot poles, like TA flags). He shoved the pole through the open window at my friend as if to jab him with them. At that point, I opened my door. A woman grabbed both ends of my scarf and pulled it, pulling me forward into the crowd. Then she let go of one side and ripped my scarf off my neck. I demanded it back. The crowd engulfed me, and I got tossed around a bit. They threw me up against the building, and then back toward the street, where they shoved me into what I think was a big metal transformer box, where I hit my head. They just kept pushing and shoving me into it, each of them as they went by.
My friend had apparently gotten out of my car to help me, but a Jeld-Wen security guard did not allow him to come. My friend said the security guard told him to let go, and my friend said, "But she's in there!" After the crowd moved past me, he got to me, and helped me back to the car.
I filed a police report this morning. I do not expect any action to be taken, but I feel the Earthquakes should know how their supporters are representing their organization.
I am not seriously injured. I have a big bump on my head, a swollen eye, and bruises, particularly on my chest and back. They stole my scarf. That hurts the most.”
This individual, as indicated, filed a police report on the 15th of April
#3 San Jose fans confront individuals; remove scarves close to the Bullpen bar.
“After the match several friends and I joined a group of TA fans at the parking lot just east of the Cheerful Bullpen. There were approximately 10-15 people gathered there.
A few minutes after arriving we saw the San Jose fans marching away from the stadium, moving eastbound down Salmon Street, where they stopped at the corner of SW 17th.
One of our group chanted something at them. I can't remember what it was exactly, but it was something along the lines of "1-0" or "go home", or perhaps both. Almost immediately a small group of SJ fans (3-5) started walking toward us.
As they approached I placed myself adjacent (and behind) the low wall that separates the two parking lots there. The SJ fans began verbally abusing us, looking for a fight. I noticed that one of them had a TA scarf, and asked if he was proud of his thievery. Apparently they were, because my scarf was ripped off as well as *Name Removed*. By now more SJers had joined, until there were 20+ of them there, of which at least 10 of them were becoming very aggressive, trying to swing at us, swinging their scarves to hit us, and reaching out to try to pull us over the wall. However, at least the three of us and maybe a few more just held our positions on the wall, thinking, at this point, that turning away would only have encouraged a full attack.
I'm not entirely clear about it, but there may have been some group of five or ten SJers who now approached and tried to restrain the larger group of them. In any case, they started to return to the corner of Salmon and 17th, when a new commotion erupted somewhere toward Salmon and 18th, attracting the attention of this a couple dozen of this group as well as a dozen or more of those who had remained at the corner of Salmon and 17th. They took off in pursuit of someone I believe may have been a Timbers fan who obviously caused them some grief, and two or three police cars arrived on the scene.
I have little doubt that if one of us had gone over the wall or attempted to retrieve our scarf, or engaged in fisticuffs, that there would have been a wide-scale brawl right there and we probably would have been badly hurt in the process. They were remarkably violent and aggressive.”
#4 San Jose fans assault multiple Timbers Fans at 18th and Salmon.
"I am writing to make you aware of a situation that happened after Earthquake and TA fans met in the street last night (4/14/13) after the Timbers – Earthquake match. A group of TA fans were walking South on 18th around 10PM, saying their parting goodbyes when one of them saw a group of Earthquake fans walking behind Jeld-Wen near 18th & Salmon. One TA fan yelled “Good game!” and the Earthquake fans reacted by charging him, taking his scarf, knocked him to the ground and proceeded kicking. They then moved on to another group of Timbers fans that were yelling at them, where they attempted the same maneuver, but only got away with some scarves because Timbers fans quickly moved in to break things up.
During this confrontation, friends said they witnessed Coast to Coast security standing around. In the end the 'guards' said and did nothing.”
#5 San Jose Fans remove scarves from individuals and start fights.
“It was about 10:20pm, after the game. It was on trinity place right by Panda Express. I was walking to the MAX from a friend’s house and 6 guys in black were running towards me on the sidewalk and I didn't even think they might be Quakes fans so I didn't take any precautions. As the second to the last one ran past me he grabbed the scarf around my neck and kept running. I gave chase but I had a backpack and the last guy pushed me to the side so I gave up.
A minute later some Timbers fans were looking for them because they had a scarf stolen as well.
As I was walking to the parking garage (at 3rd and Alder) I saw the quakes fans start a couple of other fights and attempt to steal more TA scarfs. Most of their instigating happened near the start of their walk at the max terminal at JWF. Eventually 3 cop cars decided to escort them to their hotel.”
#6 San Jose fans attempt to run back into Jeld-Wen Field to escape the police.
“Our kids were given autograph vouchers for after the game. As we waited in line above the Key Bank area, a group of people were sprinting on the road and sidewalk next to the field, from South to North. Police cars were behind them with lights on. Security and normal staff ran to the gates and closed them, getting to them immediately prior to some 1906 Ultras who were trying to get inside to avoid detection by the police. In my opinion, JW staff were on the ball and should get some recognition for acting quickly.”
I received another viewpoint of this activity from another Timbers fan.
“We were getting autographs outside key club, and cops chased a bunch of them down the street and the ultras were banging on the gates. I could see how this behavior continued to escalate, esp as they walked all of the way down to their hotel on waterfront. As i hear the stories of the various assaults it doesn't surprise me.”
#7 San Jose fans around “the Mask” area in front of Jeld Wen Field
I interviewed an individual via multiple phone conversations. This person indicated that he watched SJ fans make verbal and physical threats by the “Mask” area of Jeld Wen field. These threats and confrontations by San Jose fans happened towards Timbers fans as well as the Portland Police who had a presence on sight. The Portland police formed a horseshoe barricade between the San Jose fans and the lingering Timbers fans in the area, and certain San Jose fans in attendance helped prevent any violence from the belligerent individuals towards the Portland Police and Timbers fans. There were, reportedly, roughly 10 individuals from the Portland Police on site who eventually escorted the San Jose fans away from the area. This information was corroborated by three other witnesses on site.
#8 Timbers fan is threatened after asking SJ fan why they would want to steal another groups gear.
“The wife and I were walking to our car, post match (probably 30-40 minutes after the game was done), andencountered a group of SJ fans on the corner of 18th and Salmon. They had in their possession a TA scarf which clearly didn't belong to them. I approached them and asked why they would want to steal another groups gear let alone even want that gear in the first place and they responded with "you don't understand supporters, this is what you are supposed to do...". At that point one of the males from the group stepped towards me and threatened violence and asked me "what I was going to do about it". Not looking for any trouble we simply laughed at them and continued on our way.”
#9 SJ fans throw a beer at a MAX train.
“Prior to the game, after dropping my kids off, my wife and I went to Hot Lips for some pizza and a pitcher. The line was barely out the door. Two young guys in Timbers gear walked quickly up to the line and were looking over their shoulders to the East. One asked if they could step inside, but they wouldn't cut in line, they just wanted to get out of sight from the group of about 100 1906 Ultras that were coming. They said they had been on Max and had held up their scarves while passing the walking 1906 Ultras, and one of the Ultras threw a beer, hitting the window directly in front of his face. By the way they were acting, I believe there was more taunting than just holding up a scarf, but they were obviously scared. We moved forward in line and didn't think anything else about it until we heard later about Mr. Decker.”
The 1906 Ultras from San Jose have patterned themselves after eastern European ultra-groups adopting much of the same “heraldry” used in that part of the world. They have a, probably unintentional, association with the group “1909 Trogari” of FC Nitra in the Slovakian league
as the 1906 Ultras use the same logo for their group.
The 1906 ultras, as well, have utilized bulldog imagery often used by eastern European ultras:
The problem, for MLS, is that some European ultras groups frequently engage in activities other than tifo, chants and team support as can be seen in the videos above. This other style of being an ultra lends itself to scarf stealing (as a matter of obtaining trophies), banner stealing, fights, disrupting opposing supporters group activities (especially on the road) and what could almost be termed as gang activities. Typically these are things that have not happened in a large way yet in MLS, but the reports of scarf stealing and physical attacks have followed the 1906 Ultras group. As illustrated in example #8 a San Jose fan exclaimed, in regards to stealing scarves, "you don't understand supporters, this is what you are supposed to do...". In isolation this quote is the bravado of a misinformed youth, but backed up with the events in Portland there could be concern that this is a shared opinion among some fans of the San Jose Earthquakes.
There was a post on an ultras aggregation message board in January of 2013 from an Ultras 1906 member that showed a picture titled: Souvenirs from Seattle, New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. These pictures were under a San Jose Ultras album on photobucket and appear below. The photo’s file names are Stole 1, Stole2, and ECS.
As well, I was able to find a report from a Colorado Rapids fan (in 2010) that was assaulted by two Earthquakes fans in Colorado, who punched him and stole his scarf. A San Jose fan was arrested for this and was later put in jail for parole violations. The Rapids fan filed a police report as well at that time in Commerce City.
I was also able to find this video from 2010 of 1906 Ultras provoking a small skirmish with Seattle supporters by intentionally interrupting the Seattle march to the match.
Now these examples are small and anecdotal compared to the acts in Portland; however all, at any time, are unacceptable.
There are probably far more responsible, good people within the ranks of the 1906 Ultras than not. There is no black and white depiction of the people that exist within supporters groups. There are bad and good individuals within the Timbers Army just there are those within the 1906 Ultras, the Angel City Brigade, the Emerald City Supporters, or any organization of passionate fans. However, the line of unacceptable behavior was repeatedly crossed in Portland by San Jose Earthquake fans and members of the 1906 Ultras with multiple physical assaults on Timbers fans that involved police, security and loss of property. For both sets of fans, Timbers and Earthquakes, this violent behavior must stop as assaults, battery, theft, and homophobic slurs are absolutely nothing of which to be proud.
Those who follow Major League Soccer must ensure that the few outliers must not spoil the tremendous supporters’ culture that is growing every year in MLS.