Greece: Witnesses from the brutal crackdown of 29-6-2011

(eagainst) ATHENS 29-6 Several hundred people gathered in front of parliament early this day for a fresh protest against the Mid-Term IMF Programme. This was the second day of the 48hr general strike. Just like in many other times, (not surprised again) most of the Western media headlines talk about violent protesters, which is not true. There is no report about the Greek police, the starters of violence whose tactics look similar to a dictatorial regime.

There were also several witnesses of hooded officers who mixed themselves with protesters, marched together with them and caused unnecessary troubles in order to justify crackdown against peaceful demonstrators. Most of the Western media, ignore the fact that Greek police forces use expired and prohibited tear gases that are used only in occupied territories, and so powerful that they are banned for non-military use under the Geneva Convention. Metro officials, also, confirmed that police fired tear gas even at the entrance of the Syntagma square Metro station where doctors were giving first aid to victims of police brutality. The videos hosted in this article, confirm the incredible amount of police violence (attacks in places with restaurants full of tourists, an attack against a grocery store…).

Members of the Red Cross urge the police to stop throwing tear gases at the protestors

One of the most explicit attacks against peaceful protesters can be found in the video below (see 0:05)

A protester writes as the violence continues in the city. He has witnessed many brutal police attacks.

        After the first wave of tear gas many ran to the surrounding streets. I moved towards Mitropoleos and Nikis Street. The crowd was so dense that we were unbelievably packed up together. People flooded the streets everywhere I could lay my eyes on. They threw chemicals into the crowd.Unbelievable panic… The same happened in Ermou, Kar. Servias and Filellinon Streets – as comrades confirmed by phone.

Afterwards they attacked us with clubs. Two squads that were on Nikis Street and between Ermou and Mitropoleos, were poured out on these streets and started beating us mercilessly. They chased us like that up to Nikis and Xenofontos Streets. The people were many and there was no room. Some could not believe what was happening. They would go to the Riot police to talk to them and they would get beaten up. We were forced to break the pavements and massively attack the police with stones. They were all stoning, not just comrades… everybody! We all became “hooded” as our faces were burning from the tear gas. But they cracked down on us again.

Going in circles we reached Nikis & Mitropoleos Street again where a fierce stoning started. Some comrades lighted fires in rubbish bins to disperse the tear gas. Some were vomiting, old people were fainting… Hundreds of us were packed within few square metres and many were falling down. The Riot police launched tear gas on us and came upon us beating us while we were fallen down. They threw a sound grenade in a bin and it exploded with a tremendous clash, which ignited the fire. A shower of stones and two Molotov bombs kept them away for a while and we managed to get away.

After a while we reached the square through Ermou Street (which was packed in all its length). After the situation seemed to subside, the main attack started in Syntagma Square. Half of us found refuge in the Metro, the rest were scattered to every direction.

After having a conversation with some of his comrades, he continues:

        A comrade together with her mates resorted into a cafe-restaurant in St. Theodori Square (behind Klafthmonos). While we were choking inside the Metro, she rang me. 30, maybe more police bikes of the Delta squad were roaming through that small square, upturning tables and revving up with their bikes. Using clubs they cornered people inside the café.Women were crying, while the cops were shouting death threats. They were carrying tear gas cans threatening to throw them into the cafe to kill the people like in Dachau. After about 20 minutes I received a phone call from my friend. She said that they had promised to let them go… if they agreed to be beaten. As many people as possible got into that café. Those who got outside were viciously attacked by the Riot police who left swearing.

At Syntagma we got into and out of the Metro several times, which was full of smoke because of the tear gas launched by the police inside the Metro.People were vomiting all over the place, the one upon the other. The space was packed, up to the platforms at times. There was a feeling that we would have dead.

I left by train, in search for a place to restore. Wherever I looked there were beatings going on. In Monastiraki, in Omonoia, in Vathis Square… I had to go many kilometres away to find a safe place. I was told by phone that even 3rd September and Patision Streets were blocked by the police to prevent more people from coming.

The people were braver than I expected but fewer than I had hoped.

Another useful report can be found in Mediasoup website, which we translated below:

        This morning around 11:30, as I was headed with a friend towards Rizari & Vas. Konstantinou street, a group of policemen ordered a preventive check of my shoulder bag and physical control for my friend.

My bag was opened and 10 Riot policemen were watching. In it were found a copy of a poetry book by Yiorgos Seferis which they tore on the spot, a bottle of Mallox which they poured on my head, a paper mask I had bought from a drug store and a bottle of water. Among my items were pens, some leaflets from German theatre plays of Berlin that I carried with me since my latest trip (among which was a brochure from the show of the Berliner Ensemble titled Freedom and Democracy I Hate you, which was also torn by the police) and a bookmark from a gay bookstore of Berlin, which resulted in much scorn, insults and dispute among the 10 officers that were “examining” me.

During the search of my bag, the most dedicated member of the team, pushing a club over my pants to my anus he was asking me what is my favorite football team.

I was carried by patrol car to the 11th floor of the building of the Central Police Administration of Athens for identification of personal details, into a department labelled «Crimes Against Life», where I was released 1 hour later. The behaviour of the officers in the police station and in the patrol car was more than friendly and perfect.

I did not sign any adduction document neither did I acknowledge the relevant documents that were completed. As I was taken to Alexandras Avenue, to be released, I realized that some items were missing from my bag: my golden chain and 20 euro.

I will ask for the aid of all courts inside and outside the Greek Democracy to locate and seek the punishment of my abusers, of the insitigators of my abuse and the vandalism of the Yiorgos Seferis poetry book.

With humble honour,
humbled and abused
Manos Lamprakis

GRReporter consulted the President of the Union of Chemists George Arvanitis about the toxicity of gases and their impact on human health and about the appropriateness of their use for dispersing groups of demonstrators.

        GRR- Mr. Arvanitis, what is the content of the chemical gases the police used against the demonstrators?

GA: We do not have information about their precise content. We know based on the available information the tear gas used by the public security forces contain the chemical component CS. Its full name is 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile and it is included in the list of chemical weapons. It is ten times more active than the similar substances in the composition of tear gases that were used in the past.

GRR – What are its effects on human health?

GA – If the CS component is sprayed from a very short distance, less than five meters, in people’s faces or in a closed space it can be toxic. It enters the body through the respiratory tract. In other words, when entering the larynx during breathing it causes respiratory problems and eye irritation. In extreme cases, it can damage the stomach after entering the digestive system. When large quantities are sprayed and when there is significant concentration in the air, the component can cause pulmonary edema and acute respiratory failure mostly in the so-called vulnerable populations such as elderly, children, pregnant women, and people with chronic respiratory and health problems.

GRR – How long will it take to clear the large concentration from Syntagma Square? The smell was very strong even yesterday, as if the gas was sprayed not more than an hour ago.

GA – In any urban area there are several closed microenvironments, which are “guilty” for the concentration of toxic chemical substances in the larger urban complex. Also, the weather conditions in Athens during this season help the toxic chemical substances stay in the lower atmospheric layers for several hours and possibly even for many days. And in concentrations that can cause the symptoms for which they were made, even for long periods of time.

GRR – What is your opinion of scientists on the use of these gases during demonstrations?

GA – What is important for us as chemists is that we are talking about a chemical weapon. The UN decision 2603 banned the use of these gases against foreign troops during wars. Their use against protesting people in a country is totally unacceptable for us. Therefore, we appeal in the letter we sent yesterday the Prime Minister to ban the use of tear gas and other chemical substances by security forces to suppress the people. We think this will be the only correct action. It will be an act of good government attitude to the society at a time when the confidence of the citizens to the political governance is at critical value. We expect a positive response because it is quite necessary.

In response to these events, the Real Democracy Greek assembly of London sent a protest letter to the Greek ambassador:

 To the Representative of the Greek Government in Great Britain

Letter of Protest

We condemn the enactment of the mid-term programme under these circumstances.

We also condemn the incidents of brutal violence that took place on 29/06/11. Specifically 1) the cowardly, ruthless and sadistic police violence. 2) The presence and actions of hooded men who appear to be protected and supported by the riot police. There is a large number of audiovisual material that confirms the above and together shows beatings against demonstrators, elderly, children and tourists. In fact, there was even violence against doctors and pharmacists who were offering first aid.

The intervention of the police appeared to have only one goal: to attack and disperse the protesters who were in Syntagma Square that day.

These images of abuse of power are not consistent with a well-governed democratic state but with a police authoritarian regime.

We demand the resignation of the Minister of “Protection of the Citizen” and together we condemn the present and all previous governments that helped and promoted such unconstitutional actions of law enforcement groups.

The large presence and sacrifice of the crowd, under these circumstances, should concern and to sensitize the government. The protests and positions of the people are systematically ignored, which causes popular outrage. The situation is critical and the responsibility lies with the political leadership.

Greeks in London.

by Julien Chaulieu – 02/07/2011


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