Tag Archives: police

Drunk Lives Matter: A visit to Sokolniki Park and my experiences as a victimised minority in Russia

All I wanted was to spend a sunny Autumn day exploring one of Russia’s most famous and beautiful parks. What I ended up with was a heavy dose of victimisation, racial profiling and police prejudice that should have social activists in an uproar. This is the harrowing story of my adventures through Moscow as one of the most marginalised people on Earth; an intoxicated Australian.

With Lena working again (which is just as well, because I’m sure as shit not bringing in the bacon), I rugged up and headed out towards the legendary Sokolniki Park, which lies a few kilometres north-east of the CBD. The park is a major place of recreation and relaxation for Moscovites, with beer gardens, restaurants, skating rinks, aviaries, gardens and seemingly-endless paths to wander along. It sounded like a great place to spend an afternoon, but getting there would be a true test of my determination, as I would face challenges that few would be able to handle.

I was minding my own business on the metro between Lubyanka and Sokolniki, looking cool and listening to some of my favourite wrestling theme songs on my phone, when a bloke with a shaved head and a scowl on his face pushed his way through the crowd and stood in front of me. I thought he might’ve been a fan of songs about punching people and invited him to groove along to the music, but he wasn’t a fan of the dulcet tones of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. He was a policeman, and I’ll never forget the words he said to me. They still send a shiver down my spine. Those words were, “Show me passport.”

And just like that, I had been stripped of my humanity. I was no longer a person, I was no longer a dreamer, I was no longer a walking poet with a heart of gold. In three words I had been reduced to nothing more than the colour of my skin. I mean sure, I just pulled out my passport and the cop left straight away, but I’d still been robbed of my dignity. At that point I could completely empathise with how black people feel when this sort of thing happens to them. Of course, black people can fall back on their natural sporting, dancing and rapping abilities, their enviable physical resemblance to Wesley Snipes, and their baseball bat-sized penises, so I guess I’m the real victim here. Some call me a hero, but I don’t like labels.

After my brush with the law, I did finally make it to Sokolniki Park, and it’s quite lovely. The main part, which is a two-minute stroll from the metro station, is usually packed with people walking around, or dancing to the music that’s blared non-stop over the PA system, or rollerblading around as if it’s still 1994. It’s a genuinely nice place to find in the middle of a busy city, and the park only gets nicer as you delve further into it. Lovingly-maintained gardens open up amongst the bush, and paths wind amongst ancient trees and past bubbling streams. Further in, the park is overrun by dense forest, which looks stunning as the leaves turn to gold and amber.

I was admiring a tree when I felt a tap on the shoulder, and turned around to see another stern-faced policeman was standing there. “Show me passport,” he demanded, further demeaning me and appropriating my sesnse of self-worth. I enabled his bigotry by showing him my passport, and it felt like I was handing over a piece of my soul as I did so. The policeman soon fled the scene of the hate crime, leaving me to pick up the shattered remnants of my psyche amongst the glorious landscape of Sokolniki Park.

After wearily staggering back to the station, I climbed onto a packed Russian train and did my best to hide my tears from the staring throngs. Nobody reached out to help me. Nobody cared. Dear reader, you probably think that I’m made from granite, with the heart of a lion, but the fact is that I’m only human. I broke down and wept, but then felt a warn hand wipe away my tears. “Spasibo,” I stammered.” “Show me passport,” a voice said. The weight of social injustice almost crushed me.

On the walk home, I planned out this blog entry. I imagined the uproar from my fans when they read it. I imagined protests. I imagined violence in the streets. I imagined people kneeling during the national anthem in an act of solidarity. Despite everything I’d been through – more than any man should experience in a lifetime, let alone an afternoon – I had a spring in my step. Things would change, and I would be a victim no longer.

I burst through the door’s of Lena’s place, and immediately started ranting about the nightmare I had survived, and the revolution that was to come. No longer would Australians be discriminated against. No longer would we be forced to carry passports like dog tags, just to visit the park. She took one look at me, told me to grow the fuck up, and forced me to do push-ups to prove my masculinity. Bloody hell, I need a safe space…

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Latvia’s Most Wanted: How I almost got arrested for public intoxication

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Riga is a top city and I definitely recommend you check it out sometime, but there is one major problem with it: you can’t sink bulk piss in the street. I found that out the hard way, while downing a can of Mitava beer in front of the Freedom Monument, the most revered and respected statue in the country.

Yes, I know, I’m doing Australia proud. I can’t help it if I’m cool and a bit of a rebel, it’s just who I am.

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I was just hanging out, being cool, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Assuming it was some big-titted Latvian sheila looking for a good time, I turned around with a smile, only to see a couple of stern-faced cops. They started barking at me in Latvian and, not knowing what they were banging on about and feeling a little nervous, I took a swig of my can. That was the wrong thing to do.

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There go the fun police. Wait, actually, they’re just the police. Please don’t arrest me

One of the cops slapped the can out of my hand and kept shouting at me, so I told him I didn’t have a bloody clue what he was banging on about, and he finally realised I wasn’t a troublemaker, and instead a fun-loving Aussie with a cheeky attitude and a heart of gold. “In Latvia, we drink in bar, not in street like animal,” he told me, and I immediately started wondering if a lot of dogs and cats have problems with alcohol over here. “You put beer can in bin and go away!”

I put the can in the beer and went on my way. I was disappointed to lose almost an entire half-litre can of beer, but relieved that the cops didn’t force me to have sex with them.

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“Hey, where are the PS4s?”

Apart from almost getting thrown in the gulag, my first full day in Riga has been ace. I slept in long enough to kick my jetlag to the curb, then set out for the city’s central market. I expected it to be like Sydney’s craptacular Paddy’s Markets, with nothing to buy but mobile phone covers and poorly-fitting shirts with Jimi Hendrix printed on the front, but it was actually really worthwhile. It’s a traditional market aimed at locals, not tourists, with a bunch of outdoor stalls selling clothes and several giant halls selling meat, vegetables, and fish.

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More meat than a night at Candy Falzon’s place

I was hungrier than Penny Wong at a gynacology convention, so I found a little cafe selling what looked like omelettes and sausage rolls, so I ordered one of each. Like accidentally taking a Thai ladyboy home, I didn’t get what I wanted, but I ended up with a mouthful of something delicious just the same, because the ‘omelette’ was actually some sort of flattened beef, and the ‘sausage roll’ was jellied chicken. They were both great and, with a tummy full of goodness (that’d make a great porn title) I headed off towards my next adventure.

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Nothing’s as delicious as mystery meat!

Riga doesn’t have a long list of world-famous sites. Shit, most people in Australia don’t even know where the city is (I didn’t until about two months ago, to be honest. The allure of the city lies in walking down its cobblestone streets and soaking in the culture and history, but there was one giant monument that I really wanted to see: the Riga Radio and TV Tower.

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In this shot, I look almost as big as the tower. I’m 300m tall, come at me, motherfuckers, I’ll eat you!

At 368m tall, the tower certainly stands out against Riga’s diminutive skyline, where few buildings stand more than four storeys high. It’s actually the third-tallest tower in Europe and a very impressive sight, so I knew I had to climb it. The handsome three-legged tower is a couple of kilometres south-east of the city, so I took a strut along the Daugava River. It’s a very baron landscape as soon as you leave the CBD, with withered trees and quiet streets. At times, Riga really does seem to be the end of the world.

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It’s a bit like looking up a chick’s skirt

A trip to the tower’s viewing platform, which stands 97 metres above the ground, costs just three-and-a-half Euro Spacebux, and that’s about all it’s worth, to be honest. I’ve been up a lot of the world’s best towers – the Eiffel in Paris, the Oriental Pearl in Shanghai, the fucking Coight Tower on Knob Hill (tee-hee) in San Francisco, and they were all better than this. There are two main problems; the tower is too far from anything to get a view, and it’s enclosed, with dirty windows obstructing most of the view.

Still, the view from the platform accentuated just how weird Riga is. While the city proper clings to one bank of the river, the other is basically empty, save for some strange little shanties scattered around, that look straight out of the third world. It’s such an alien world, worth visiting if only to see and feel how different it is from anywhere else.

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Riga’s most exclusive neighbourhood

I spent the rest of the day rolling through Riga’s old town, drinking beer in the streets as if it was legal, trying to get into museums that all seem closed, checking out Latvian women and, finally, accidentally becoming public enemy number one. Yeah, I’m still dirty on it – after all, there are real criminals out there that could be chasing down, starting wih the fucking bongo-playing hare krishna cunts who keep making a racket outside my bloody window. Go get ’em, boys!

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Just shoot the cunts!

Beer of the day:
The can of Mitava I was downing before the po-po so rudely interrupted me was smooth and delicious, not too heavy but full of flavour. The can also comes with a bit of gold foil over the top, so it’s the oversized can of choice for the discerning street alcoholic.

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Kebab of the day:
I had a falafel wrap from TurKebab, and it was unlike any I’ve ever had before. I asked for it spicy and, unlike yesterday’s disappointment, it was definitely hot. It had a delicious BBQ sauce drizzled over it, but there was too much of it, overpowering the taste of the falafels and the other ingredients. Not perfect, but a good meal.

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Did I find the greatest love the world has ever known?
Unfortunately, no, but a very fat woman at the market pinched me on the bottom and then waddled away to buy some dried fish. I guess I’ll take it.