The Tale of the Third City
The usual R U C tactics which have been used time and time again on the streets of Belfast, by our loyal serving police officers had failed. Their onslaught upon the young un-expectant crowd who had obstructed Bedford Street on the night in question, failed to have the desired effect. They tried but they couldn’t break us. The excitement had left us, that’s true but it was only to be replaced by anger. I can assure you, the will to protest had not been subdued by the heavy hand off the law. Even though the RUC had thought they won the battle, we knew they hadn’t and believe the war certainly wasn’t over.
My friends and I had seen this young crowd arriving, at first, in groups of four’s and five but we also seen them quickly dispersed in numbers. Down Side Streets and the back alleys leading away from the venue. To an outsider, I would agree, it may well have looked as though the spirit of this new revolution had been broken that the revolting army had simply turned and ran away but that wasn’t the case, oh no……… These kids weren’t running away they were merely regrouping to another location.
It’s only a short walk from the Ulster Hall in Bedford Street to the Europa Hotel, which meant it was only a matter of minutes before the entire crowd had re-grouped outside, the most bombed Hotel in the world. A monumental structure in Belfast, targeted on many occasions by the IRA but still she stands proud in total defiance on Belfast’s Great Victoria Street.
Just to have been there, to have been wrapped up in all that mayhem and to have seen all the drama unfold before my very own eyes. To have witnessed the sight of fifteen hundred or so young Punks all pissed up and each and every one of them pissed off with the cities authorities, was just overwhelming.
No one could have foreseen this happening, young Punks scattered all over the place, causing total mayhem and preventing everyone from getting in or out of the Europa Hotel, due to such a large crowd, cramped into such a small space. Those who tried, without any doubt, would have felt intimidated by this unruly mob and as you can imagine, it wasn't long before the enviable happen. Remember tensions among the crown was already high, well before arriving at this new location and just as it had happen on Bedford Street. Once again, the panic among the RUC officers slowly began to show and those heavy handed tactics of the law started to raise their ugly heads again. The difference being this time, ‘the RUC could not allow a repeat’ off Bedford Street to happen here, not on Great Victoria Street, the main southerly approach into the city.
After a while, the Clash did come out to speak briefly to the crowd, I was there, I seen them but I haven’t a fucking clue as to what they were saying. I do, however, remember seeing Strummer in deep meaningful conversation with those at the front. I even noticed a few smiles and laughs but it all happened so quickly. One minute they were there the next they were gone. As they turned to go back into the hotel. Whispers quickly spread among the crowd ‘they’re going to set up and play outside in the street someone said’. Quite a few actually believed it, whereas the most of us stood in hope.
Can you imagine that, I can because I know for a fact that the Clash had the balls to do such a stunt. You see, I was in London, on the Kings Road, two years later, the day Beaufort Market was forced to close. Rumours have it, the owners of Seditionaries’ and Boy were behind it. Now I can’t be sure as to how many Punks actually turned out that day on the Kings Road. 3000 – 5000, maybe more but I do know they were all there to see the Clash who said they would play on the roof top in support of Beaufort Market. The Clash were there, ready and willing. Their gear was set up, plugged in and all ready to go but sadly the London police; the old bill, quickly stepped in to ruin the party.
So think about it; if the Clash were prepared to play on the roof tops of London, why would the thought of playing in front of the Europa Hotel, in front of a few hundred dedicated fans, not have crossed their minds? Although the chances of it happening were pretty slim I know that now but when you’re fifteen or sixteen years of age, everything is possible, and it would have been one hell of a way to end the night, that's for sure
That was just one of the rumour that was quickly started that night, there were others but none more convincing than the possibility of the Clash playing at Queens. Where this rumour originated from I am not sure. It could have been this the topic of Strummer’s deep and meaningful conversation in front of the security barriers at the Europa Hotel or. It could have been started by the panic stricken police force, in an attempt to remove this peaceful disruption of the streets and away from the hotel. Either way, as the word spread through the crowd, who slowly started to disperse like worker ants in the direction of Queens University and, of course, escorted by the police. Hope was once again restored, smiles were seen on those young faces once more but sadly it didn’t last as we were once again let down.
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