Δευτέρα, 6 Δεκεμβρίου 2010

Athens, 6th of December 2008

The police radio squawked its message. there was a grey sedan parked on the pavement somewhere along Alexandra's Avenue and impeding the pedestrians. Could the nearest police car go and check it out? The two "special guards" in their patrol car were nearby. They called in to say they were proceeding to the spot. But for reasons unknown they didn't. Instead they turned into the "Exarcheia" area, a neighborhood known as the centre for the alternative crowd, both musically and politically. And also known as a bit of a "no-man's land" for "batsous" the greek derogatory term for policemen...
They stopped at a junction and proceeded to have words with some kids lounging around. The verbal altercation became worse, some witnesses who testified said they didn't want to repeat the words they heard...There had been no protests, no gangs, no violence of any kind. As they turned to leave they apparently threw a stun grenade, standard equipment for the greek riot police...

This prompted a girl who lived in a nearby block of flats to come out onto her balcony with her videocamera. She saw the pair get into their car and leave. Ten minutes later, having parked their patrol car a couple of blocks up the road, they returned. They exchanged more words with some of the kids. A young boy of fifteen, named Alexandros Grigoropoulos, got up from where he was eating a sandwich,and commented on their behaviour. He was told to back off. He challenged them as to what they would do. "I'll show you what I'll do" said one of the guards. He raised his arm. He was holding a pistol. He shot two times, maybe three. Alexandros just about had time to state in disbelief "I've been shot" and he crumpled to the ground. He took a bullet in the chest, next to his heart. The two men walked away. A while later they would call in and say they had been attacked by a mob. No mention of shots fired, no mention of a victim, or of a dead 15-year old boy...

From the hospital, where the body of young Alexandros was taken, a woman used his phone to call his mother. She picked up, saying that she would be coming right away to pick them up. The woman said "I'm calling from the hospital. Your son is very badly hurt". "Is he alive?" she asked. "I can't tell you, but don't come alone, bring a friend". His mother put the phone down, called a friend of hers and told her. Her son was dead...

The news shot around the neighborhood in seconds. around Athens in minutes. Around Greece in less than an hour. Riots erupted ,first in Athens, then Thessalonika. Then a number of other Greek towns. The next day was to see the first use of tear gas in Corfu that I remember (excepting the Lefkimmi rubbish tip riots...)

People were angry. There was a lot of looting, burning, roadblocks, cars on fire. For 3 days Athens burned. The minister Mr Pavlopoulos has now conceided that there was talk of imposing martial law. It was not done because they wanted to avoid more deaths.

The people on the streets were a mix. More of a mix than you might imagine. Mostly young pupils as opposed to students, but also anarchists, little old ladies, members of the communist party, immigrants, illegal immigrants, and an unknown number of members of the greek Neo Nazi group "Golden Dawn" (Yes there are Greek Nazis...) They hate the lefties guts and always take the opportunity of a riot to do two things. Do senseless damage so it can be blamed on the leftists, anarchists etc (The hairy ones as they call them) and get a good chance to kick the shit out of them too! I know from friends of mine who are involved that there is a certain "code of honor" among the anarchists. They won't burn people's shops. Only banks and big corporations or franchises. All the other shops broken into or pillaged were mostly by immigrants and common thieves grabbin the opportunity (hope that doesn't sound racist, it's not meant like that...)

A young boy who was interviewed, of a similar age to the victim, said he left his house on that day, hit the streets and didn't really return home until the 23rd of January. I can remember my daughter being teargassed here in Corfu (strangely, or not so, I felt proud...)

I remember those days. On the 6th of December, I was writing of the death of an old friend, Kate Roberts (Bless her wherever she is...) Then two days later, all this violence had erupted. On Tuesday, the 9th of December, I was in town picking up my daughter and her friend from art lessons. I parked in a side street and waited. Behind me an unmarked van pulled up. The side door opened and through my mirror I caught a glimpse of black suited riot police putting their helmets on and grabbing their shields and batons. I felt sick. I drove through town, in San rocco square there was a good crowd. With two 8 yr olds and a baby in the car I couldn't stop though even if I wanted to do.

And now two years on? The spectre of another kind of brutality hangs upon Greece. The financial brutality of the markets and their cronies.I am still waiting for the revolution to begin...

1 σχόλιο:

  1. For those who don't know the difference, "special guards" or eidiki frouroi as they are known are a separate part of the Greek police force. While normal policemen, have to go through 4 years of training, special guards do betwen 2 and 4 months. Then they are given a gun and let loose...

    Apparently the idea was yet another way of making sure as many as possible of "our" boys got a well paid government job. No screening, no nothing. Just as long as they are under 28, finished lykeio and can shoot straight...

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