Tag Archives: police

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.

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

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.

Athens – Social Meltdown

Here’s a short documentary on the social repercussions of the Greek crisis and an attempt to understand the rise of violence, but also of solidarity in Greece. It’s made by Ross Domoney, a colleague and friend from the UK who did not parachute himself to Greece for a couple of days but spent several months in Athens.

Athens: Social Meltdown – Greek subtitles from Ross Domoney on Vimeo.

Why we need the foreign media

Back in the days of the 1967-1974 colonels’ dictatorship, the free-thinking Greeks were depended on news coming from abroad. The BBC Greek service, the Deutsche Welle radio as well as media from France, were manned with Greek journalists who had escaped from Greece and were transmitting what could not be told by the censored Greek media. It’s sad to admit that we have started to return into a similar dependence when it comes to human rights violations in Greece.

Photo by Kostas Kallergis.

Especially in the past couple of years, there has not been a lack of proofs for a series of stories, yet the mainstream media in Greece have repeatedly and stubbornly denied to report on important stories. With Greece being in the international spotlight, the usual pattern was that a foreign medium would publish a story which would then be translated by some Greek portals back into Greek in a sort of what-the-foreigners-say-about-us kind of story. Nevertheless the Greek public, even through this pattern, has the chance to get informed about what is happening in our country.

I’ll give you two recent examples. Two weeks ago an anti-fascist motorcade protesting against the rise of neo-nazism met a group of far-rightists in a downtown Athens neighbourhood. The police was there too. Several leftists were arrested after the scuffle and spend a horrible night at the Greek Police HQ in Athens. When they were taken to court, some more leftists were arrested among the crowd who went  outside the courts in order to show support. Only a handful of leftist blogs reported the ordeal, despite the witness accounts and the visual proofs of their allegations for torture. Last week, the Guardian published this embarrassing report and suddenly all the mainstream portals and some tv stations have reported it. They were obliged to report it because it couldn’t be hidden any more.

In a similar fashion, some months earlier, the Reuters have published a report on questionable practices within Piraeus bank. There were two reports, one in April and one in July, the latter can be found here. These are stories for which journalists in other countries would kill to break but not a single media over here pursued the story (which would criticise the practices of a bank that has one of the biggest budgets for advertising). Ironically, the April report was based in already published documents by the anonymous blog WikiGreeks.org (which has in the meantime taken off the net for an unknown reason). So the information was there, lying freely on the net and no-one broke the story.

This is why I have been strongly convinced lately that the free-thinking democratic part of our society depends more and more on media like the BBC, Reuters and the Guardian.

Greece 2012

The things that are happening are starting to be too many. They can overwhelm you. We are living in a kind of post-apocalyptic situation where everything is collapsing. Incomes, values, morality… A society that is suffocating. Here’s how I saw Greece today, 12 October 2012, through some headlines.

Graffiti by Sidron – NDA Crew, photo by Kostas Kallergis

Unemployment has reached 25,1% (official stats for July 2012). Among young people the number is 54,2%. Yes, 1 out of 2 young Greeks is looking for a job. Needless to say that among those who are working, there is a percentage who doesn’t get paid. Employers owe more and more salaries to their employees because of cash shortages. But these are just percentages, misery turned to statistics. You only need to sit down and think that, practically, around 1.000 Greeks are losing their job every day. One thousand people. Every day.

The government is about to announce another round of harsh austerity measures. Lots of cuts and more taxes. How much more can you tax a country? How are they going to pay? Where on earth did economic growth come thanks to more and more taxes? The country gave what it had to give, now it’s time for the officials to see that their predictions for more state revenues through taxes are superficial. Some days ago, one of the biggest dairy firms in Greece (FAGE) announced that it is moving part of its operations, for accounting purposes of course, to Luxembourg. Some days later another one among the biggest Greek companies (Coca-Cola) made a similar announcement sending shockwaves to the markets.

On another weird story, the Minister of Maritime Affairs spoke to an audience at the Maritime Club of Piraeus. He told people there that the troika had this idea. To evacuate all the islands which are inhabited by less than 150 people in order to cut down on public expenses (coz they still need schools, doctors, local administration and subsidised transport connection to the mainland). Of course, it was not an official request from the troika but probably a lower level official making a joke. But the Minister, like any random amateur, said this in public. And the Minister of Finance, who in theory carries out the day-to-day negotiations with the troika, suddenly became something like a troika spokesman, denying here and there that such a request was made. And these people are serious. Our Ministers. Seriously!

This is the situation in which we live for the past two and a half months. Since August the government is spending all its energy carrying out some hidden negotiations with the troika, deciding how they are going to cut 11,5 billion euros from the state budget. One day the Greek government says “this is how we’ll do it” and the other day the troika says “you can’t raise so much money out of it-just fire 10.000 public sector employees’. Government officials, and the Finance Minister Mr Stournaras himself, have informed a number of EU, ECB and IMF officials about what the measures are going to be. But the Greek public… noooo… of course we are not mature enough yet to know. We will be the last ones to find out how much we will be called to pay, how much more tax we should give. Which other nation has been so patient to await for 2,5 months to see how its government, its supposed guardian of its interests, is going to kick  our ass?

And on the top of that, a bunch of Golden Dawn far-rightists, accompanied by two of their MPs and a mob of Christian fanatics, have attempted to block the premiere of a theatrical play. A journalist reported that he got beaten by them-here’s his story made by uniting some of his tweets after his ordeal:

“At the entrance of the theatre, there were Golden Dawn and priests tearing down the show posters and stepping on them.  I took out my mobile to take pictures for the blog. 5 Golden Dawners and a cop surrounded me. They ask ‘Are you a journalist?’ I say “I write for lifo”, hoping to escape a beating. Quite the opposite. They pull me aside, call me ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’, pull my beard, spit in my face, hit me in the stomach.  Cops nearby. I shout “They’re beating me, do something?” Reply : I’ve nothing, move along please. The cop’s wearing 3 stars. They put a lit cigarette in my pocket. A woman standing near warns me, in front of the cop. He pretends he hasn’t heard.  I start to get scared, move away from the entrance. They shout after me ‘Go away, you dirty faggot, go suck someone’s cock!’ I turn back to observe. A known Golden Dawn MP follows me, punches me twice in the face, knocks me down. Downed, I lose my glasses. The Golden Dawn MP kicks me. The police are exactly 2 steps away. Their backs are turned. Repeatedly, I shout to the cop “THEY”RE PUNCHING ME, DO SOMETHING!” Back still turned, he walks away. The rest of them shouting at me next to the police officer “Cry, you pussy, queen, little girl” We pass dozens of cops hanging out. I tell them I was beaten at theatre entrance. They ignore me. One blows me a sarcastic kiss.”

The police detained some Christian fanatics during the events. A bit later, one of their MPs, Christos Pappas, approaches a riot police bus and easily drags one of the detainees there. He set him free seconds later, with the policemen staring at him in awe, as if it was the Police Chief. Look for yourself how easy it was (most of the anti-fascist protesters who were arrested last week and were allegedly tortured inside the Police HQ in Athens are probably jealous of how easy it was for Mr Pappas to do this). Christos Pappas is with the blue suit and the tie.

Yes, my friend, this CAN happen in Greece today, as we become a less democratic state, every second day.

Heil malaka, heil!

Amidst continuing incidents of racist violence in Greece and in the absence of photographic documentation of it, there is a higher need for illustrating relative articles in different ways. These recent nazi-related illustrations by Manos Symeonakis are a great example.

Trivia: Did you know that Ancient Greek architectural, clothing and coin designs are replete with single or interlinking swastika motifs? It was then called Gammadion, i.e. a symbol made of the Greek letter Gamma (Γ). See here for a start.

Manos’ blog, where you can see more of his great work, is here.

Rebel police?

I just read this announcement by the National Union of Employees in the Police. It’s soooo strange to read something like this. I think the policemen have started to think of the “next day”. It seems that less and less people believe in the course Greece has taken and more and more people are trying to find a place for themselves in the next status quo. It remains to see this change of stance in tomorrow demonstration as well on Sunday’s evening gathering at Syntagma.
The letter is addressed to the representatives of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
The interests of creditors of usurious loans and capitalists who covet our national wealth, can not in any rule of law be put in priority over the basic needs of people. Moreover, the priority of survival of a nation’s citizens, has been legitimized as a priority not only in domestic policy but also in the international community. Moreover, we, nor the majority of the people, are not those who caused this crisis.Because, however, we find once again that you continue the same destructive policies for all of us, we would like to state categorically that under no circumstances we will accept being put to be killed with our brothers.

Be warned as legitimate representatives of the Greek police that we will require to be issued directly to statutory orders to arrest you for a host of violations of the legislation, the act of committing a hearing in accordance with specific provisions of the Greek penal law, such as extortion, the covert promoting elimination or reduction of our democratic polity and national sovereignty, the interference of other essential legal goods of the Greek people, etc.

The full letter (in Greek) can be found at the union’s website here.

Like a virgin

This is a great example if you want to see how a responsible Greek politician behaves in times of crisis. In May 2010, when Greece was about sign the IMF/EU/ECB Memorandum, Michalis Chrysochoidis was not just another Socialist MP but the Minister for Citizen Protection (one of the high profile government posts). Yesterday he was invited to talk to a news program at SKAI TV. The discussion was around a recent criticism on the terms of the Memorandum, highlighted by former Prime Minister Kostas Simitis’ speech at a conference in Berlin. This is the video excerpt from SKAI TV and below a quick translation.

Journalist: Let me ask you directly. How many hours did it take you to read the Memorandum? Because Mrs [Louka] Katseli (the then Minister for the Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping) said yesterday that she was given the Memorandum on Saturday night and spent two hours on reading it and this is how she went to vote on it. Have you read what the creditors have written down and did you have a different opinion than theirs? Were you aware of what you were about to sign?
Chrysochoidis: Are you serious?
Journalist: Absolutely.
Chrysochoidis: These things were discussed in the Parliament… No, I haven’t read the Memorandum at that time because, simply, I had other obligations. I had other duties…
Journalists: Excuse Mr. Minister, this is very serious. How did you sign it? Did you sign a text that commits the country for an eternity and that is responsible for the mess in which we are now and you are telling us that you didn’t read it? How can you say this so easily?
Chrysochoidis: Look, in politics things are not like that. 
Journalist: How are they?
Chrysochoidis: Some of my colleagues had negotiated, some of the responsible members which represented the government had negotiated and brought that legislation into the Parliament and, as you remember, it was voted by the majority of the Parliament, by PASOK and LAOS if I remember well.
Journalist: Is there a direct responsibility on the economic staff of the then government [i.e. the Minister of Finance George Papaconstantinou]?
Chrysochoidis: As I told you before, it was done so under a state of panic in view of a possible suspension of payments which was a threat over our head. My job at that time was to re-organize the Police, the Fire Brigade, to create the DIAS team [a Police group which patrols in motorbikes], to fight crime. It was not my job to study the Memorandum.

So Mr. Chrysochoidis just said that he signed one of the most important legislation passed in this country without even reading it. He just went the next day to the Parliament and voted for it like an amateur politician. Like a virgin! He didn’t have the time because he was re-organizing the Police which indeed showed a great zeal to crush the demonstrations taking place in the center of Athens. It was the same days when three people were burned in the fire of Marfin Bank, a collateral damage of that day’s violent chaos. The DIAS team were roaming the streets like horses of the Apocalypse, attacking protesters. And yes, crime, there wasn’t much of it that day because the political head of the Police devoted all his time on the issue rather than having a look at the Memorandum.

Katseli & Chrysochoidis

Louka Katseli and Michalis Chrysochoidis getting bored during some speech (it was probably an important one)

Some key things to note which will make some (more) sense. There is a widespread criticism on the terms of the Memorandum even by PASOK MPs, now that the old PASOK (that of George Papandreou) is crumbling. Everyone one is trying to clear his/her name, to distance themselves from the shame of “having been part of it”, preparing for the next day, or simply for the coming elections. Let’s not forget that Mr. Chrysochoidis has declared that he intends to challenge for the PASOK leadership which will be decided very soon. But let’s not be in a hurry and put all the blame to Chrysochoidis for simply telling us the truth. Most, if not all, of the MPs had literally a few hours to read the Memorandum. Among the virgins, there were some prostitutes too.

Here’s an excerpt from an older post that I’ve wrote (The run up to the Greek economic crisis) – it is a translation by an article of To Vima’s journalist Pavlos Papadopoulos.

“We were like prostitutes after their first time” a top government official confessed in his attempt to describe the Cabinet member’s psychological situation during their meeting to sign the Memorandum, on the 5th of May 2010. “We were looking at each other and we were all pale” he says. “We felt very ashamed since we couldn’t believe that we, PASOK, led Greece to the IMF, having chopped the salaries and the pensions”. And then he concludes “Since then we have been completely prostituted. We’ve done the same things over and over again without feeling any shame”. Almost all PASOK politicians admit in private that the Memorandum, despite its provision of some necessary reforms, is synonymous at the same time with the sentencing of the economy to a prolonged depression and with the mortgaging of the country to its lenders. However they recognize that it was the last choice in order to avoid bankruptcy and to secure the savings and the pensions, especially since the government had previously failed to implement the prior solutions.

“The Memorandum was hastily written by us and the troika” admits a high-ranking government official who participated in the (so-called) negotiations. “We had no idea of what we were writing and the troika experts were equally confused, working under great pressure from the European Commission and the IMF”. According to first hand accounts, the slightest preparation hasn’t been made and simply, on the last moment, they isolated part from older IMF Memorandums as those with Turkey, Mexico or Hungary and they would hurriedly adapt them to form the Greek Memorandum. “It’s a bad compilation, a Frankestein-styled Memorandum” says a Minister who admitted that he had less than three hours to read, understand, evaluate and approve the part of the agreement which would commit his Ministry for the next four years.

Obviously this Minister was not Chrysochoidis.

Michalis Chrysochoidis is currently Minister for Development, Competitiveness and Shipping.

Two more tragedies joined the statistics

Last Monday, a young man from the north-western Greek city of Ptolemaida committed suicide. He was 37 years old and was facing serious economic problems. He constructed a makeshift gallows at home and hung himself. Seconds before he sent an SMS to the wife of his brother who arrived at his apartment and saw him dead. A note was found next to him where he explained that he took that decision because he couldn’t take it any more being chased by the banks for his debts.

Two days earlier, on Saturday night another man in the nearby town of Proastio Eordeas committed suicide for similar reasons. He was 58 years old and was found hanged inside his home’s garage by his daughter.

The Police hasn’t found any clues that would connect the deaths to an assassination or accident.

They are the two last additions to a long list of suicides which have taken place in Greece due to the economic crisis. Even though we are discussing the consequences of a capitalist phenomenon, I will paraphrase Stalin’s famous quote and say “When two men die it is a tragedy, when thousands die it’s statistics”.

According to Kostas Lolis, Director of Sismanoglion Hospital’s Psychiatric Clinic, in 2009 there has been about 1 suicide per day in Greece. In 2010 this number was doubled. This is generally attributed to the economic crisis as media reports often mention suicides of either businessmen who went bankrupt or people who were unemployed for a long period of time. The island of Crete has a special mention in this (although there is no explanation as to why the number is higher there). Additionally, the number of people who called the “1018” emergency number to seek advise on the issue, has also been doubled in 2010. The study of Mr. Lolis can be found here (in Greek.