The Greek Voice

"…Don’t through us tear-gazes, we cry by ourselves."

(my translation: don’t throw tear-gas at us, we cry by ourselves)

14 décembre 2008 par Elthina

I’m writing from a city which is "on fire" since last week. The first part of my article is like a diary, in order to give you an image of the situation and in the second part I’m trying to explain why is this happening.

Saturday, 6th of December, Exarchia, 9:00 P.m. : Two 16 years old boys meet in a pedestrian walk, in Exarchia, in order to celebrate the nominal feast of a friend. Police car passes by and there is a phrasal argument with 2-3 persons who were siting near the two boys. The boys went near to see what is happening. Few moments afterwards the two policemen get out of the vehicle and start speak with ugly phrases to the 16 years old kids. Some older person answer with ugly phrase too and also throw a plastic bottle of water to the policemen. A shine cracker was the answer of the one special guard and the extended arm with a gun right to the bodies of children was the answer of the other. The first bullet does not achieve anyone ; the second achieves 15 year old Alexander Grigoropoylos straight to the heart. alex The special guards turn their back to the dead boy and withdraw with apathy. There were many of witnesses of the episode who, eponymous, describe with the same way and almost the exact words the murder. In the next few hours there was no coverage of the event by television or other mass media while simultaneously people from all around Athens went down to the centre of the city since they learn about the fact via calls, sms, and e-mails. The first information from televisions is that 30 individuals that attacked to the police, for gun-fires in the air and the death of a young person from the ostracism of bullet. After, 3-4 hours, the murder of Alexis, demonstrations begin all around Greece. Fires in clothing shops and computer-shops in Stournari and in Ermou(big shopping road). The television shows insistently the version of facts supported by the police officer (murderer) and creates the fake impression that the murder became during riots. However the riots started after the murder and because of peoples rage. The Minister and the Undersecretary for the Interior (Minister for Home Affairs) declare their resignation which does not become acceptable from the Government ; this theatrical representation did not convince anyone.

Sunday, 7th December : thousands of people assembled in Athens, notified from sms, and e-mail. Demonstration goes to the General Police Department of Athens. During the demo and around the main body of the demonstration young men break everything and banks are burned, cars, garbage and as it was expected some Ministry buildings. Old people drop lemons and flowerpots from their balconies to the police. Naturally the repression is big, tear gazes, chemicals, globs and arrests. For the first time there is tolerance [2] of the people for the destructions. Forced by the general climate, television journalist say that the boy was murdered and they are turned against the Police and the Government, and for the first time they do not only present the destructions and the street fights, as they usually did, but also the people who demonstrate. The destructions seams almost justified or expected after what have happened. There are many demonstrations and destructions of banks in many Greek cities. (Thessalonica, Patras, Heraklion, Kozani, Chania, Xanthi, Mitilini). Riots in Greece is the top story in all international news agencies. Athens resembles as being bombed and the protest has been changed into revolt. The destructions continued up to the morning.

Monday, 8th of December : school kids, in many cities in Greece, refuse to enter in their classes ; they close streets and protest in front of police departments, throw eggs and oranges. They protest and they reach near the "protected" entry of the Parliament, the police do not react since is in the foresight of people. schoolkids Due to their youth, student’s struggles signal the generalized dissatisfaction, they are not "the black block" that "they destroy everything" as what the tv-news used to say during each protest. In this climate, the demonstration, which is called by the Greek Social forum, SYRIZA (delegation of left wind parties and independent people) and other organizations of the Left, begins and has thousands of people of all ages. The demonstration accomplishes the programmed route with difficulty due to tear gazes (non-stop) that police(MAT) threw all along while a lot of young men break and put fire in shops. For the first time there are also lootings (steals) in the shops from various persons or even hooligans. Protests all around Greece, occupations in radio stations, destroyed banks, shops and prefectures, this is the picture of the country during the last 24 hours. Greeks of abroad protest outside the Greek Embassies in many European and other countries.

Tuesday, 9th of December : thousands of students, schoolchildren, schoolteachers, University professors demonstrate once again in the centre of Athens. Police under Government’s command, hit and make extensive use of tear gazes and chemicals to the young students more than they used the last days. Some arrests are made. The TV-journalists begin to focus more on the destructions of these days than on the protests. In 22 prisons starts abstention from food in a way to protest. In 3 p.m. young Alexis is being buried, hundreds of school kids, students and older people assist in his funeral. The presence of police outside the cemetery is provocative. They throw chemicals outside the cemetery during the funeral. Riots outbreak far from the centre this time, the police shoot 15 times on the air without reason since no one (citizen or policeman) was in danger. The police with this provocative action tried to terrify and discourage people from participating in the demonstration of Wednesday, 10th of December.

Wednesday, 10th of December : Carries out the programmed strike and demonstration of trade unions for the labour issues. Thousands of people participate but no riots take place. Even though, on previous days, the majority of GSEE(Greek General Confederation of Labour), constituted of syndicalists of Social Party (PASKE) (followed by the syndicalists of government’s party(DAKE)) decided to call of the demo, after it was pressed by the syndicalists of [SYRIZA] they were convinced not to cancel it. During the demonstration police throws tear-gazes on the students that followed the trade union’s demo. The police officer who killed the boy declares that he is not sorry and asks to be left free without restrictive terms.

And keep going on…

The government during all these days is almost absent ; all politic statements were focused on the destructions. The Prime Minister declares that the police officer will be punished, without admitting that the boy was murdered. The Socialist Party seams that it doesn’t realize the enormous dimensions that the situation has received in order not to lose the centrist voters. Also socialists’ declarations are focused on the destructions. The Communist Party, pressed by the situation organized a gathering on Monday ; their statements do not mark the responsibilities of Government but said that the SYRIZA (the other big left wind party that its forces raise this last year) nurses this "wild youth (cashers)" who destroy everything.

Since 1980 until today the police have killed above 100 individuals, mainly young with no motive and not even one police officer was punished. In order to comprehend what is going on, we should answer two fundamental questions. How come a 37year old police officer, with three children, shoots with no reason a 16year old boy ? Why the murder of Alexis has brought the bigger reaction up to now in Greece.

In the past few years the police "raised" with a spirit saying : "we have the power, we are the state, and we can do whatever we want" and lots of them collaborate with fascists. Two years before, in student demonstrations, the doctors who took care of the wounded students warned the fact that we had not murdered victims was pure luck. Since then the situation got worse. There were tortures in the police department of Omonia, beatings of immigrants, imprisonment of student who wasn’t guilty at all, wild beating of a student that the police claimed (despite the evident video) that he hit on a flower-stand. Hundreds of incidents, however not even one police officer was punished, never. Last Saturday, only few hours before the mortal gunfire of 16year old Alexis in Exarchia, an immigrant -one of the hundreds for hours wait in the Migrations Office in order to have a red card – had been transported to the hospital wounded by police officers. Certain weeks before, one immigrant had lost his life by the police. On Sunday was the time for a small child to be killed. While these last weeks the patrols from the special guards -as the one that killed Alexis- had been intensified in the center of Athens. Just one day before the murder, during the student demonstration the repression from M.A.T. (Units of Re-establishment of Order) were been unreasoned and dreadful. It should be marked that this department of police (the special guards) is relatively new and contrary to what happens in the other European countries ; they have not been trained in order to handle difficult situations that require self-esteem and knowledge of psychology since they carry guns. There is no psychological control to the police officers that they are armed.

during a demonstration

Apart from this spirit that was cultivated all this time in the police, the Government is very pressed by big scandals, scandals including huge public money and public fortune which changed hands between the Government and the Church. Accusations of corruption and scandals involve money and public fortune from which they profited at least many Ministers (if not the Prime Minister himself) and some "priests". These scandals in combination with the world economic crisis, made all citizens being frustrated. In Greece, the wages were the lowest in Europe years before the world economic crises. Researches made among young people show that the "hope for a better future" does not exist and optimisms is very low, almost zero. Unemployment, low wages, the big limit for the pensions and the bad educational system destroy young people’s hope for tomorrow. Tomorrow looks even worse than yesterday. This is the first post-war generation who knows that their lives will be worst than their parent’s. Perhaps we should watch one more time the film " La Haine" by Kassovits and remember what happened in the Parisian suburbs in order to consider and comprehend what’s going on here in Greece.

Will the repression continue ?

The revolt however does grow… which will be the changes ?

"…Don’t through us tear gazes, we cry by ourselves." This is the last line of a letter, written by Alexis’ friends.

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