On 29 and 30 June, Greece’s parliament voted in favour of the austerity programme requested y its creditors and then passed a second vote on a law which was needed in order to implement its austerity programme. On 29 June, the centre of Athens was the stage for riots and violent protests, the air was toxic from the extensive of tear gas and police brutality reached unprecedented levels against demonstrators.
On 30 June, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou hailed the second vote as “a crucial step” for Greece. The Financial Times reported that “Greece cleared the way for fresh international financial aid to avert a damaging default”. The EU welcomed the approval of the implementing legislation for the economic programme, as a “decisive step Greece needed to take in order to return to a sustainable path” and “act of national responsibility”.
As European and national leaders sighed with relief, Greek citizens at the centre of Athens could not breathe. The atmosphere had been unbearable following the riot police’s extensive use of tear gas. According to eye witnesses and street reports, the brutality shown by the riot police on 29 June against demonstrators was unprecedented and unprovoked.
Members of the riot police were captured on video terrorizing passers-by on Mitropoleos street off Syntagma (Constitution) Square, as they cruised on motorbikes at high speed. They were reported to have handled violently any arrest or identity check, and damaging people’s personal belongings. They were repeatedly photographed holding marble rocks to throw at protesters. They were reported and photographed hitting journalists, photographers, and demonstrators. They were recorded on cameras throwing tear gas at the entrance of metro station at the Syntagma Square (a video from the inside of the metro station and one from the outside, where a member of the police hits demonstrators). They were seen throwing tear gas and inside coffee shops, a journalist from Greek SKAI TV station reported. In this video, they are attacking demonstrators without any provocation outside Hilton hotel, while in this one, a member of the police hits a demonstrator right after the latter has asked him not to (its at 0.06′)
According to Greek journalist George Avgeropoulos, around 1.30pm the police started firing tear gas and pushing the crowds towards the centre of Syntagma square, without any provocation at all from demonstrators. On his video footage, doctors reports how the police fired tear gas in the emergency room in the metro Syntagma square, while they were providing first aid services to demonstrators. George Avgeropoulos comments that “it was a miracle that nobody lost his life”.
According to the news website Protothema, the police had clear orders to break the bulk of the demonstration on Syntagma Square at any cost. Where “at any cost” presumably means disregarding the damaging effect of tear gas on people’s health (which could appear at later stages in their lives), violating human rights, and using excessive force against peaceful demonstrators and citizens, whom the state is supposed to protect.
Amnesty International has in the past urged the Greek government not to use excessive force during protests. In its latest press releases, it reports that on 29 June there was “repeated use of excessive force by police [...] , including the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of tear gas and other chemicals against largely peaceful protesters”. Eye witnesses and demonstrators report that the tear gas that was thrown by the police was very potent, creating not just the usual runny eyes, but a burning effect on the skin, as well as serious breathing difficulties. There are some who claim that what the police used was toxic gas, which is even forbidden at times of war ( a picture of a tear gas can be found here), while the president of the Athens Medical Association, George Patoulis reports that the tear gas used by police expired in 1979.
When European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen was asked to comment on the excessive force of state authorities in Athens and whether the member of the troika had any responsibility, she replied that while a manifestation of violence is unacceptable, this was the responsibility of the Greek authorities and the Commission was not authorized to comment.
Right, just as Western leaders did not comment on the brutality used by Colonel Muammar Qaddafi ‘s regime against its own people for thirty years till up to a few months ago.
P.P.S. A big Thank You to everyone who took and uploaded these pics and videos.