In its five-plus years of existence, the raucous folks of El Batallon -- one of four longstanding support groups that show up to Houston Dynamo home matches (and sometimes away games) -- had never gone to the media.
That's changed since one of their boys got the stun-gun treatment during the Dynamo's tussle with the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday, May 26, at BBVA Compass Stadium.
"It was hot on Saturday," says Martin Flores, an El Battalon homie since 2007 who witnessed the incident. "Like really hot, so at halftime, Javier [not his real name] went and soaked his shirt in the sink. When he came back, he sprinkled some water on Eric [also not his real name] to cool him off. Eric was caught by surprise so he threw his hand up."
Two Houston Police Department officers, sensing some sort of unruly behavior, came down the steps to check out the situation. Javier and Eric explained to the cops that they were just horsing around and even gave each other a man hug to show the officers that everything was chill.
"That didn't work, so the cops told them to follow them up the stairs," says Flores. "In the concourse, Alex Sosa, who's a hyper and passionate guy, ran into Javier and Eric and asked the cops what happened. The cops told him to step away, but Alex kept asking questions."
That's when things got aggressive, says Flores. With Sosa against the wall and his hands behind his back, an HPD officer discharged a taser into Sosa's side. Flores, who says that Sosa "wasn't even fighting back," captured some footage of the episode.
Since the incident, HPD has admitted that a stun gun was used on Sosa.The Dynamo organization also released a statement that in part read, "We are aware of the incident that occurred between a few members of one of our supporters' groups and City of Houston police officers during Saturday's match. An investigation is ongoing and we are awaiting a final report. Until that final report is issued, we will withhold any further comment on the incident."
Flores, who admits that El Batallon's game-day behavior is far from perfect, explains that they have been unfairly treated since the Dynamo's new digs opened earlier this month. The grievances include a new stadium policy that was put into effect following the first game at BBVA: Any supporter who brings drums to the stadium has to show up at least three hours before kickoff to clear security.
Flores thinks that the ill will has to do with the Walker End charter agreement that El Batallon refused to sign, even after Texian Army, La Bateria and Brickwall inked the document. Walker End, most likely drafted in response to Major League Soccer's "hooligan" rap against the Dynamo support groups, lays out a code of conduct for the support groups to follow.
"If [former Dynamo President] Oliver Luck had asked us to sign it, we would've signed it, but we don't have the same partnership with [current Dynamo President] Chris Canetti so we didn't sign it," says Flores.
"We've fucked up in the past and that's the bottom line, but it's been such a frustrating situation since the new stadium opened. There are about 40 security guards in our little area. If you put your leg in the aisle, somebody's there to move it back. It's out of control. I wonder sometimes if I'm in jail or at a game."
Along with a feeling of discomfort in the stands during Dynamo games, Flores thinks that the goodwill between the four support groups, which took years and years to establish, has vanished. "We aren't syncing up at all," he says.
Flores admits that the tasing incident has been a big bummer to some members of El Batallon -- the group collectively decided to skip the second half of the L.A. Galaxy match -- so a plan for future games will be figured out prior to the Dynamo's Charities Cup match against Valencia on Thursday night.
"We're going to the game. We're not sure if we're going to sing and all of that. We may just sit there and watch since it's a Charities Cup game."
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What if it were a match against, say, FC Dallas or the New York Red Bulls?
"Oh, no. If it was an MLS Game, we wouldn't sit down," he says.