A Swiss partier-turned-protester prepares a very spicy cocktail. (Photo: Evan Ruetsch)
Earlier this year, as rioting and revolution convulsed the rest of the world, Switzerland remained predictably stable. This is largely due to a combination of its famed neutrality, guaranteed health insurance, low unemployment (2.9 percent, ha!) and labour unions that operate symbiotically with management. In fact, Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, is regularly cited as one of the nicest places to live on the planet, even if it can be perceived as a tad boring.
So if you’re a rebellious little Swiss shithead, you might be frustrated by the lack of things to rage against. You also might channel your inexplicably suppressed hate for The World into downing MDMA like Pixy Stix and dancing your face off to dubstep in 48-hour increments.
This type of behaviour was all good fun for everyone until summertime, when illegal raves began getting busted by fun-hating cops. Somewhere between ten and 15 substantial ragers had been shut down by the 3rd of September, when coppers put the kibosh on yet another massive late-night party.
The kids decided they’d had enough, and over the next week organised an unholy amalgam of party and protest via text messages and social networking, taking to the streets of Zurich’s famed Bellevue Square. It quickly escalated into a full-blown riot.
Armed with party supplies – including speaker systems and crates of alcoholic beverages – more than a thousand teenagers swarmed the square, a major traffic junction and transportation hub. At 11PM sharp, just as partiers-cum-protesters had been instructed (even parties start on time in Switzerland), overloaded amplifiers blasted distorted beats out of speakers, and the normal activity of the square was brought to a sudden, brutal halt.
Minutes later, the boys in blue arrived in full riot gear, and the Swiss youth quickly learned that life is not a Chumbawamba video and you can’t literally party in the streets without a few heads being smashed in. Some of the partier-demonstrators climbed onto a roof, and the police predictably ordered them to get down. The cops brought out their riot gear and their opponents brandished their own: masks, flammable liquid and approximately 2,000 beer bottles. Sticks and stones were thrown, shop windows smashed, trash cans set on fire and the party officially “got out of hand”.
After the smoke cleared, the riot had caused approximately $114,000 worth of damage, two people were injured and the cops had arrested 91 people (only six of whom were over 25 years old). Naturally, blame had to be assigned, and Zurich chief of police Philipp Hotzenköcherle pinned it on “riot tourists”, which is a pretty awesome turn of phrase, and something that someone should probably base a business plan off of soon. Roger Tognella, a leader of Switzerland’s liberal FDP party, ominously hinted during a recent radio interview that if there were more riots, the army would have to get involved. Tanks rolling through Zurich’s streets in a clampdown on club kids? Now that would give the youth something to protest about.
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