Tag Archives: Athens

The airborne battalion of anarchists

This is how ANT1 TV reported the riots that took place in the Exarchia district of Athens on 6/12/14. The journalist, Yorgos Karaivaz, have surpassed Nobelist poets and imagined himself in one of the fiercest battlegrounds of human history. Enjoy the description and ponder the reasons why a nationwide TV station would go this low to describe in this way an otherwise pretty simple news story.

Greek demo dress code: plain clothes

An interesting video was filmed last night during the extensive riots that took place after the demo in honour of 15-year old Alexis Grigoropoulos who was assassinated by a policeman on December 2008.

Greek demonstrators often mention the existence of plain clothes policemen and the infiltration of agent provocateurs in demonstrations in Greece. I too used to believe that this was some kind of a conspiracy theory until I started attending demos after 2009. International media have been reluctant to report on this (with some exceptions) with correspondents finding it difficult to believe that such totalitarian practices are still being used in an EU country.

But this video, filmed last night in Exarchia district of Athens and posted on YouTube by Sto Kokkino radio, shows clearly a big number of what would otherwise look like “a band of hoodies or violent rioters” passing by a team of riot police, heading towards the district’s square where anarchists had set up barricades.

The Greek government does not acknowledge the use of such practices, nor is it expected to comment on the issue after the publication of this video.

Upd: Here’s a second video from the same place/time (Thanks Janine Louloudi).

Video details police violence in Exarchia

In a response to the video posted by Chloe Kritharas, the chairman of the Union of Policemen said that the Greek Police has launched (one more) investigation about the incident. He added that according to his information by his colleagues, the first in a series of mistakes was made by the kiosk owner who refused to sell any of his products to the raiding riot policemen. He also said that the policemen have left money on the counter of the kiosk and that, normally, they should have arrested the kiosk owner in the end for refusing to serve them.

Here’s the video of the Policemen Union spokesman.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2ak6ok_%CE%BC%CF%80%CE%B1%CE%BB%CE%AC%CF%83%CE%BA%CE%B1%CF%82_news

Latuff for Loukanikos

In 2010 Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff drew a cartoon about Loukanikos, the Greek riot dog whose fame was about to take off.

Greek_riot_dog_by_Latuff2

Last week it was made known that the cute street dog had passed away. The news flooded the Greek social media with sadness and even newspapers like The Guardian hosted a canine obituary. Carlos Latuff drew one more cartoon about Loukanikos.

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Rejecting cannibalism

I saw this poster today. On the wall outside my neighborhood’s Unemployment Office. It was full of young people and as I was arriving there a dark, stony feeling was felt in my stomach. Approaching the entrance, this poster made me feel better. No matter how desperate some people can get, they won’t turn to each other. The poster says (in free translation from a Greek colloquial expression):

We are hungry! And we don’t plan to eat each other!

poster hunger

One Sunday morning

Good morning!

One of my girlfriend’s Facebook friends posted this photo at 6.30 this morning.

patras fire

Patras, Greece. 19/1/2014 Photo by Dimitris Gkioulos

Dimitris Gkioulos wrote next to the photo: Two hours ago, a woman living across the street from where I live was burnt from a fire created by a heating device. I woke up to her desperate cries “Fire! Fire!”. Now let’s calmly continue our day…

Due to the continuing austerity and the ridiculous tax on heating oil, people in Greece are forced to use cheap and often dangerous ways to heat themselves during the winter. Burning wood in fireplaces or even braziers has been the solution for many of them. As a result, the extensive use of firewood has caused tens of deadly accidents so far and, in the case of areas surrounded by mountains like the Athens basin, it is also responsible for the phenomenon of smog. See my post here (“Greece is on fire or the alter of austerity“) for more on this topic.

Meanwhile in Athens, the smog keeps haunting the city. I’ve even noticed that the traditionally minimalist weather reports are now enriched by a new qualitative index. Smog risk. In the UK you have the windchill factor, in Greece we have the smog risk. A number working in the subconscious, telling you whether you can exercise in the open air, dry your washed clothes outside or simply take a stroll in the local park for some fresh air.

Some days ago, early one morning, I took these photos. This is how smog looks like on a bright sunny day in Athens.

Update: I just noticed that there was also a relevant blog post about the fire accident in Patras. Here’s the link and here’s the translation:

4am in the morning and you jump out of your bed to a desperate cry “Fire! Fire!”. You go out to the balcony and you see this [see photo above]. And then the neighbours tell you about yet another brazier next to you, yes another victim, a woman. I didn’t ask what was her name, how old she was, if she had friends, children, grandchildren, dreams or just pills and stress about her pension. I was ashamed. That’s what it was. And when I returned home the air was smelling burnt flesh. Your fucking culture…

ps. She was 62 years old. Yet another victim (the count is lost) of the undeclared war. The war is always a class war but, right now, we must just shut up.

Signs of the times

Today is the last weekend before Christmas. One last little hope for the shop owners to make up for the losses of another year of depression. Shops are going to be open on Sunday too. The city centre must be clean to cater for the shoppers, the army of consumers who are actually more like starving animals looking for offers, discounts, credit, installments, anything.

The centre must be clean, the image of the city is what counts. We’re in such a bad situation that we can’t be bothered with what’s behind the curtain. At least we can look well. I was talking with a hotel owner at the neglected areas below Omonia square. About two years ago, despite the crisis that was already there, he had spent more than 2 million euros to turn an old building to a boutique hotel. Last year when I first interviewed him complaining about the area being neglected, about immigrants, crime, few tourists would dare to go the demo-stricken Athens and even fewer would choose his hotel for their stay. This year he sounded much happier, the immigrants were gone, the police is doing a good job patrolling the streets, none of his clients reported any thefts and, above all, tourists increased. I guess he didn’t care about the immigrants’ detention camps or the police abuse, as long as the centre is good for his business, as long as Greece’s image abroad is polished. “Tourists returned to Athens. It’s simple. We had a riot-free year as far as the Athens centre is concerned” he explained while some blocks away, in Exarchia, this very riot-free year has been certain people’s biggest disappointment. Not that they indeed hoped for a real socialist, communist or anarchist revolution but at least there should be some show of resistance, they shouldn’t look as defeated as they do now. Above all it’s the image.

So they city must be clean. The Mayor of Athens, who only a couple of days ago called one of the city’s most vibrant, creative, young and colourful areas [Exarchia] a hub of organised crime, sent out the municipal workers on their eternal crusade against graffiti. The wall of the Bank of Greece HQ should be clean by now. This is how it looked when I passed by this morning.

bank of greece

A municipal worker is cleaning a wall from a graffiti. A bitter orange tree next to the Bank of Greece HQ has flourished. (photo Kostas Kallergis)

The graffiti was saying “Solidarity to all the immigrants”.

It’s winter. The bitter orange trees that decorate the Athenian streets have showed us their fruits. A sweet orange colour on the outside but extremely bitter inside. The naive tourists often mistake them for tangerine and occasionally try to eat them. Nature is teaching us, not everything is as good as it looks. The bitter oranges, the centre of Athens, the Greek economy…

Athens, 21 December 2013. These are the signs of these times.

A new type of civil war

I’m getting fed up of these numb mornings. I usually wake up in the morning, I prepare my coffee and sit on my computer to read the news and check the newspaper headlines. This morning my entire electronic universe was filled with the story 34-year old rapper Killah P (known as Pavlos Fyssas) who was killed by a fascist in Amfiali, Keratsini district, near Piraeus.

The victim, a singer known in the area for his anti-fascist lyrics and activism, was watching last night’s Champions League match with his friends at a coffee shop. During one of their discussions they said something (bad) about Golden Dawn. Someone from the crowd, obviously a Golden Dawn member (not just a voter), has called his fellow neonazi thugs and, after the match, the singer was ambushed, attacked and stabbed to death in front of his girlfriend and another couple.

Here’s one of his songs (you can activate English captions for the lyrics).

Can you be something less than immensely furious about this? I can’t.

Some days ago, another group of about 50 neonazi thugs have attacked a team of 30 communists who were wheatpasting on walls posters for the coming Communist Youth Festival. Eight communists were injured in the event that also took place near Piraeus, at Perama district. It was, once more, one of those mornings.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect a serious escalation of anti-leftist violence from Golden Dawn, despite the stated hatred from both sides. There was a very popular quote that was often appearing in my facebook timeline:

First they came for the immigrants, but I wasn’t an immigrant and I didn’t speak. Then they came for the communists, but I wasn’t a communist…

I was quickly scrolling down when I’d see this. But I am now afraid that the violence between Golden Dawn and anything Leftist is not an accidental confrontation in a battle to claim the streets but a rise in planned incidents.

One year ago, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayotaros has given an interview to BBC’s Paul Mason. Sitting comfortably, he said that Greece is in a state of civil war. Paul Mason, a connoisseur of modern Greek History, insisted on the phrase “civil war” and Panayotaros explained:

Greek society is ready, even though no one likes it, to have a fight, a new type of civil war. One the one side there will be nationalists, like us and Greeks who want our country to be as it used to be and on the other side there will be illegal immigrants and anarchists…

Watch the video here (go to 01:55 for the Panayotaros segment)

Last week Golden Dawn was involved in tension during two events that commemorated some ugly moments of the Greek Civil War. One was at Meligalas and the other was at Giannitsa. There were no immigrants involved, just leftists and nationalists.

There have been hundreds of attacks against immigrants, leftists, homosexuals and others and the Golden Dawn party has always denied involvement. There was never a denouncing of the event itself because there were seldom enough proofs (for Justice) to incriminate them. This morning, the killer of Pavlos Fyssas has been arrested and, unofficial police sources say that, he was a supporter of Golden Dawn. Was he an official member? Does it make a difference? Of course not. He was definitely a member of a circle of thugs who have answered the phone call at the coffee shop before the end of the football match.

Not only the killer himself has now blood in his hands. The person who made the phone call also has blood in hands. Golden Dawn MPs, like Panayotaros, who have used hate speech against all non-nationalists, who have made anything they could to polarize the Greek society, they all have blood in their hands. And all those who have voted for Golden Dawn should now feel the thick red liquid in their hands too.

The Golden Dawn ballot is now wet and it’s not black anymore. It’s bloody red.

Update: I just found this great poster made back in 2012 by b-positive

“You’ve armed their hands with your vote”

Thanatourism in Greece

At the beginning, the Greek crisis was interesting just for foreign correspondents, economists and political analysts. After the first year of the crisis, I started observing an increasing interest by scholars and post-grad students who would come to Athens for a week and try to speak with as many people involved & influenced as possible.

Activists followed suit. Last February I met a 20-year old anarchist from US who came to Athens and got in touch with local comrades in an attempt to carry ideas back to the Occupy Wall Street movement. In December 2012, while working with a Norwegian team of journalists, we mingled with a rioting in the anarchist Exarchia district of Athens and witnessed tens of “riot tourists”. Some were here indeed out of sincere solidarity, consciously supporting the struggling Greeks but some were obviously kids on a European city escape who, rather than throwing a coin in Rome’s Fontana di Trevi, chose to throw a stone to a Greek policeman. Don’t ask me if they made a wish in advance.

In February 2012, a close relative who is now working in Middle East told me of a Ukrainian guy who visited Athens ahead of a general strike. His aim was to witness the foreseeable riots that usually accompany our strike demos. Right then I started to feel that Athens is slowly becoming a sort of a spectacle in the same way tourists visit Chernobyl for photo opportunities with radioactive plastic dolls, blood-thirsty Italians visited Bosnian trenches during the Yugoslav war or like Toshifumi Fujimoto, a Japanese truck driver who enjoys visiting war zones instead of dreamy beaches.

Tourism in Bosnia kept dealing with the war. Even now, almost 20 years after, one of the major sight-seeings of the capital Sarajevo is the so called War Tunnel. A quick google search will give you several companies organizing walking tours about the civil war there. Funky Tours, to name but one, is organizing the Sarajevo Total Siege Tour.

Soon humanity coined a neologism for this kind of tourism. You can look it up under the self-explicit War Tourism or even Dark Tourism, which involves travel to sites associated with death and tragedy. There is also the synonymous, but less popular in use, Thanatourism, which derives from the Ancient Greek word Thanatos.

Winged youth with a sword, probably Thanatos, personification of death. Detail of a sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, ca. 325-300 BC.

Winged youth with a sword, probably Thanatos, personification of death. Detail of a sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, ca. 325-300 BC.

Having all these in my mind I knew something like this was coming. Especially after last summer, when I came across the website of Political Tours, a London-based travel agency founded by former New York Times Balkans Correspondent Nicholas Wood. The travel agency’s motto was “Intelligent Travel for Inquiring Minds” and I read that they were organizing tours in North Korea, Libya, Turkey as well as a trip to the US during their elections. So guess what was their latest tour? “Greece and the Euro”, a 8-day phantasmagoria of Greek crisis, misery, unemployment, destruction and poverty. Among speeches with political analysts and journalists, their detailed programme included a “visit to Sydagma Square, where the demonstrations protesting austerity measures have culminated and where many riots have started. We see the damage done by the unrest and then move on to Ermou Street, a place were it was once impossible to find a shop to rent. Now many are empty and pawn shops are prevalent“.

Today I have found a second foreign travel company organizing such a tour. It’s Context. I copy from their website: Context is a network of scholars and specialists—in disciplines including archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, history, environmental science, and classics—who, in addition to our normal work as professors and researchers, design and lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups of intellectually curious travellers. Their new Athens tour, titled Greek Crisis in Context is basically a walk in downtown Athens that ends up in a taverna where the intellectual tourists will fight their thirst with a sip of some Greek wine. This excerpt is from the tour’s description:

Depending on time and how our conversation unfolds we may end the walk in a local wine bar where we can conclude our discussion with the possible solutions and precautions for a brighter future in Greece. As we take a sip from the local Greek wine (not retsina), we will emerge with a much clearer understanding of the Greek economic crisis and its social elements.

The prices for the walking tours are 70 euros per person but there is a possibility to book a private tour for 300 euros.

Which, coincidentally, is a bit less than the much-talked new minimum monthly wage in this country.

Fear. Loathing. Athens

 

Magasinet cover (supplement magazine in DN newspaper, Norway)

Magasinet cover (supplement magazine in DN newspaper, Norway)

A great article by Norwegian journalist Eskil Engdal on the situation at Perama neighborhood, one of the poorest areas in Athens with an unemployment of more than 50%. It’s front page title says “Fear. Loathing. Athens. Merry Crisis and Happy New Fear”. Eskil left Athens with the impression that there is a lot of fear in Greek society. Average Greeks are afraid of losing their jobs, or of a grim future for their children. They are afraid of what the next day will bring. Migrants are afraid of Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn is afraid that migrants will change the demographics of the country, they will turn Greece to an islamic country, or simply that they will “steal” our jobs. Eskil is not wrong.

Tomm Christiansen produced some great photos for the article and the newspaper accompanied the online version of their story on Greece with my short documentary on political graffiti “The Wake Up Call“.

The cover’s graffiti is by Sidron and it’s a block away from Athens’ historic Polytechnic.