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The International Writers Magazine:

The Raid
Karen Phillips

A Goth club, Mexico City…how or why we had booked a gig there, I have no clear recollection, but we needed the cash and whilst it wasn’t perhaps our usual target audience, los goticos might still enjoy our Mexican-rock-and roll-viva-las Zapatistas type music for a change. Either that or boo us out the door. Possibly in a scary Goth manner.

The club was almost pitch black and packed with black. stiffly sprayed hair and pancake make up; morose figures loomed and swooped in the ultra-violet light and I felt conspicuously blonde and far too well adjusted. We struggled to unload Fluffy-the Van (a stupid English misnomer that I hold my hand up to) and set up the stage to the moan and wail of various unfamiliar Goth dirges and then, with only the usual amount of delay and squabbles, launched into our heavier numbers, accompanied by a surprisingly enthusiastic crowd who awoke from their depressed torpor and began to pogo and stage dive without a care in the world. Things were going swimmingly with minimal injuries and maximum bonhomie when the power was suddenly crunched off and the house lights went on, leaving everyone blinking at each other like children caught doing something naughty and embarrassing. A suspicious amount of agitated milling began to emanate from Front of House, gradually rippling back to us standing, slightly miffed, on the stage. The club manager shoved through the crowd, his kohl slipping a little and at first only random words reached us…"policia judicial"…"drogas"…"cabrones!"…

Precious moments were wasted in confusion and initial scoffing, but it suddenly became clear that the club had just received a tip off…the Judicial Police were on their way for a drugs raid and anything or anyone left on the premises when they got here would be impounded or arrested. WE would be in big trouble if we didn’t get our equipment out of there NOW. And for me there was a small personal issue of not having a valid visa. Sudden action.

Those in the crowd who were a) still capable or b) suddenly worried about what their respectable middle class families would think, began to stampede for the door, leaving pools of only the very stoned or the very rebellious behind. We the band began flailing around, hurling cables at boxes in tangled clumps, tripping over microphone stands that refused to telescope down or trapping finger skin in those that did it too quickly, wrestling with cases that suddenly decided not to fit their instruments. The drum kit wouldn’t come apart and was carried bodily through the swirling crowd with bits then falling off as it went, along with speakers that were charged through at a run.

Everywhere was chaos, people trying to help us and people merely trying to help themselves to whatever they might be able to carry off. Sammy, our roadie, was dancing around in the back of the van screaming at people to get out of the way and simultaneously trying to bum a fag from a Goth girl who looked about twelve. Sirens were heard in the distance. The atmosphere turned ugly and punch ups began to break out in the street as the adrenaline and outrage and possible other substances kicked in. As we flung delicate objects into the back of Fluffy, a skeletal Goth in a flapping black trench coat began to jump on the bonnet of a car and scream abuse in the direction of the sirens. The first bottle flew, narrowly missing his head and smashed into the opposite curb. We were sweating and filthy, feeling like we were in one of those dreams where nothing happens fast enough. Minutes of frantic action passed. The sirens grew louder as the last item was lobbed in the back of the van and Sammy kicked drunk people off the tailgate in order to shut the door. One of the door hinges chose this moment to collapse in a crumble of rust and about six people rammed the door with their shoulders to close it enough for the padlock.

We piled into the front cab, stones and bottles now flying thick and fast. As we jolted and lurched away from the curb a rock crashed against the windscreen creating a spider web of cracks and a smaller stone zinged straight through the side window. The only side mirror was smashed and bent, swirls of furious people ran amok, and the cab of the van was a plethora of profanities in three different languages. Whilst Rico swerved the ponderous Fluffy around pools of rioting Goths, Sammy was thrown around in the back, valiantly using every limb to balance toppling speakers and landslides of delicate equipment whilst still managing to light a new fag and protect his head from a plunging guitar.

The backdoor gaped and groaned and just as we got on a straight, "we- were- never- there- guv" looking course, the crazed patrol cars came screaming around the corner, sirens and lights blasting by us to skid to a halt in front of the club a few yards behind us. We couldn’t see anymore after that.The van became quiet as we contemplated our escape. Still cashless then, with a bunch of knotted cables and twisted connections, missing microphones, a split snare drum, bruised shins, slipped discs, a wrecked van. And a vague feeling of guilt for having left the rest of them to it.

This was the serious side to the whole incident. Where is the line between solidarity, and simple every man for himself, I wondered? Was it applicable here, or was the guilt it raised just displaced bleeding heart nonsense? There probably were drugs around at the club, but it’s doubtful that many of them were hardened criminals, just students; did they deserve a violent raid from the judicial police who had a reputation of nastiness stubbornly clinging to them?

We couldn’t find out much information in the following days, apart from a small article in a newspaper generally applauding the police action. The club was closed down for an indeterminate length of time, but would almost certainly reopen somewhere else or as something else. I guess raids like this happen all over the world all the time, but to be in the midst of it, in Mexico City, at a time of uprising and violence in general, only exacerbated the scab of injustice and repression that barely ever has time to heal and is constantly inflicted in the name of ‘cracking down’ on crime.

It raised the spectre of the Tlatelolco riots of 1968, where a peaceful student demonstration was turned into a bloody riot by heavy handed police methods. The closing down of Club Goth was just another small and almost unnoticed example of heavy handedness and targeting of the wrong people. Only because we were there in the club that night could we know that there hadn’t been the violence or obscenities reported in the newspaper, so it was also an interesting lesson in media manipulation and unfortunately cast lingering doubt and cynicism on other media reporting – if they could blow a raid on a small insignificant club out of proportion, what do they do to the real issues…?

All the same, when the next gig turned out to be at an open air arts festival, it was a bit of a relief. At least there you expect a police presence.

© Karen Phillips Oct 2008

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