Saturday, June 18, 2005

Trouble in Baixa

[file under: why can´t you stay still, dear yogi?]

What adventure is complete without a run from the police, ya?

I am in Lisboa, Portugal this morning. Lazed around in bed to beat off the scorching heat and headed out to find an internet café to blog about the unbeliveable journey I had all of yesterday from Paris.

So, i´m walking about and come across this monument of some sort in the district of Baixa. Standing there trying to see if I can get a picture without the sun getting in the way when i hear some commotion. Now I´m standing just off a main street and next thing I know the main street is filled with people running. There were some people with flags wrapped around them, but most of the others actually seemed like reporters. You know, the big cameras, booms, the works. Actually snapped a picture of a Reuters cameraman. They were actually running backwards filming a platoon of gun-toting policemen who were marching up the street. All of them stopped right in front of me, a lot of standing around going on, and things were quietening down.

Then, all of a sudden there was a shout from the street above(this area is hilly-ish) and everybody runs there including the cops. And me. Yup, curiosity always gets the better of this cat. So I can´t really see what´s going on, but everybody congregates in front of a shop with big glass windows. The shop keeper proceeded to close his shop. With all the reporters outside I thought for a minute that this was maybe Paris Hilton in town kinda thing.

Then, the shopkeeper near me is shutting his place down in a hurry and all the shops around me start to do so too. One Portuguese woman sees me snap-snap-ing pictures and i think she said Journalista? Hell, no. I ask her what´s going on and she said something I couldn´t follow and then in english, quite agitated at this point,"we are all portuguese".

So I climb onto a closed shop-window-ledge along with my fellow curious-istas and am trying to see what´s up. Then some guy walks up to the cop around the corner and is shouting at the top of his voice at him. The woman who I had spoken with says something to him and takes him away from the cop, who just stood there. Shouts of ´portugal, portugal´ start from a couple of spots on the street and then ...

Run, Yogi, Run.

It´s a riot now, cops chasing down some dudes, everyone running whichever way they can. I ducked into a side street and into a shop window that was set back from the street. Luckily, the running happened down the bigger street. Things calmed down a bit then, and feeling a little bolder, I ventured back onto the main street. The cops on foot were joined by siren-blaring cars - no idea how they got onto the narrow streets. There seemed to be no more fighting etc so I ventured into the center where everyone was.

Found an english speaking portuguese who gave me the scoop - this was a right-wing anti-immigration demonstration gone all wrong. Apparently the cops beat up someone and that started off the melee. I stood around talking to him and a couple from Florida.

He stated very matter-of-factly: I´m not a racist, but I am a xenophobe. I don´t want foreigners to live in Portugal. Only tourists.

The American woman said: I wish it was the same in the US.

The American guy asked me: Where are you from?

me: India.

The Portuguese guy: Goa?

me: no, but Goa is good.

The two men then proceeded to talk about prisoners and why there are an inordinate number of black people in prison, both in Portugal and Florida. Me: I stayed out of the debate, being from India and all.

Then the Portuguese man said: This is going to get worse. He pointed to a bunch and said that they were African gangsters. Apparently, they had just showed up, possibly to ferment more trouble. At this point, I decided maybe it was a tad too much adrenalin for the day and found my way here.

I have to say though, Lisboa just pure distilled rocks. I don´t know what it is, maybe the weather, the sea, the women, but i am just so relaxed. It´s past 5 and the city may just be cooling off. Off I go for a walk.

Will blog about yesterday´s events maybe tomorrow. Just a teaser: they were kicked off by a big fire :-) yeah, these things happen to me. anyone want to come along with me on my next travels? never a dull moment, that much is guaranteed.
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