People got angry yesterday watching Floriana FC fans celebrating in their main square like there’s no virus. Understandably the angriest of all are Valletta FC fans. They don’t like seeing their neighbours in green having a good time and that’s without needing a pandemic to fuel their moans.
But people who are indifferent to football complained about social distancing, masks, protection of the vulnerable, smoking 10 metres away from anyone else, touching one’s own and other people’s faces and all the other recommendations and legal requirements flouted with abandon until the event was interrupted by the police and the crowd was dispersed.
It’s the sort of anger you feel when you walk on any given promenade or go to any given beach and see crowds huddled together as if the coronavirus never existed. If the virus has been suppressed domestically to the point where we need not care anymore, we still need the discipline for when we reopen our airport.
Discipline was not foremost on those supporters’ minds.
The anger also comes from the fact that this spontaneous orgy of viral dissemination happened in broad daylight at the Granaries in Floriana. If someone farts there, they can smell it at Police Headquarters.
Yet it took the police an hour to show up and enforce the law that requires fines if more than 6 people are found together outdoors. That’s an hour to emerge from a distance I could walk without complaining once.
Witty satirists on Facebook posted a clip of the Floriana FC celebrations alongside a TikTok clip of someone dressed in a police uniform… er, shall we call it dancing?
Now there’s no suggestion the policewoman (if that’s what this person is) was really filming this during the Floriana bacchanal. There’s no suggestion that distraction with TikTok delayed the enforcement of justice this morning.
The juxtaposition of the videos was a bit of humour, an irony anyone would get because whatever delayed the police from arriving at the Granaries did not make the police look great.
Nor did this video. I find 10 second TitTok clips of bad lip-syncs more pointless than mosquitoes that can recite poetry. My daughter is making them all the time. But my daughter is ten so she’s got that going for her.
Still it is not the end of the world if a junior officer killed her boredom on some night shift (I’m speculating generously here) by acting beneath her age with her mobile phone camera. Eisenstein she is not. But that’s not a crime.
What’s disturbing is that she, or her friends, or her bosses, or whoever, expect everyone to pretend this didn’t happen. At least two Facebook pages reported receiving threatening phone calls by people saying they’re “from the police” demanding the video is taken down “or else”.
This Tweet by lawyer Martina Caruana also speaks of multiple phone calls made to anyone on Facebook who shared the video demanding they take it down.
Today, #MaltaPolice spent hours tracking down people who shared a video of a ‘dancing’ police officer in uniform complete with police station backdrop (which she herself uploaded). Meanwhile, DV reports are ignored, & murder conspirators & white-collar criminals roam freely.
— Martina Caruana (@CaruanaMartina) May 26, 2020
For these volunteer page moderators, most of them students, those phone calls were scary enough. The video was pulled down practically everywhere. I asked one of these moderators why they’d taken the video down when he got the call. What did they tell them to convince them to remove it? “Well, the convincing was easy” the page moderator told me. “They told me measures would be taken against the group. I’m not a rich guy. If push comes to shove I can’t afford lawyers to fight what is practically someone else’s fight.”
There’s the chilling effect in a nutshell.
So, I’m sorry Miss Whoeveryouare. Your tiktokking skills, such as they are, will be immortalised here.