Police use of tear gas kills 130+ in Indonesian soccer crush

At least 131 are dead after Indonesian police fired tear gas at supporters of Arema FC on Sunday. The decision to fire tear gas came after Arema’s, at home, unbeaten streak against rival Persebaya was snapped and angry fans stormed the field.

It’s also been reported that the police were beating people with their batons.

Witnesses say police were unnecessarily brutal – and that along with the clouds of stinging gas, officers were beating fans with batons.

Frances Mao, BBC

The brutality and the tear gas resulted in a panicked crowd that rushed away from the police and a fatal crush. According to Arema FC’s coach, several fans died in the arms of the players that they had just cheered for.

Several reports out of East Jakarta indicate that officials for the home side had banned fans from Persebaya of buying tickets. Which means that the sold out crowd of 42,000 was full of supporters of the home side.

Before you get all defensive about the fans who were tear gassed on the pitch, police also fired tear gas into the stands without any warning. That’s what prompted mass panic and the crush that is responsible for the vast majority of those deaths — just a reminder that using tear gas on the battlefield is a war crime.

FIFA has banned tear gas at soccer stadiums for decades, yet local police and authorities continue to disregard that ban. Another crush of this magnitude was really only a matter of time…and unfortunately it was the fans of Arema FC that paid the price.

The team, local, and federal officials want everyone to hold off blame until the official investigation is completed. But ultimately, the decision to use tear gas — which was banned by FIFA after 300+ died in Peru in similar circumstances — is at the root of this tragedy. And whomever authorized the use of the chemical agent should be held criminally responsible for each and every one of these deaths.

There seems to be little faith from Indonesians that the investigation will result in any actual change to the National Police as protest have broken out in the aftermath of this disaster.

If the police don’t fire tear gas, in violation of FIFA rules, then the panic, the crush do not happen. There are more productive, and safer ways, to reign in pitch invaders; but those were not chosen and now at least 131 people will never return home to their families or friends.

More from Sports with Neil and friends