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Posts Tagged ‘police’

The right to disobedience (or Of Greece’s squats)

In News on January 10, 2013 at 1:49 pm

In December 2012, Hellenic police evicted squatters in the Villa Amalias building in central Athens, located at the crossing of Acharnon and Heyden str. The building belongs to the Hellenic Schools Buildings Organisation. The squat has been going on for 22 years. On 9 January 2012, the squatters re-occupied the villa (video) and the police arrested them. They are taken to court today, 10 January.

Later on 9 January, Hellenic police raided a second squat, located at the crossing of 61 Patission ave. and Skaramaga str., the Skaramaga squat. This building belongs to the Sailors’ Pension Fund (NAT) and had remained empty for 10 years. The squat began in 2009. Here are pictures from the squat in the building, which includes a bike workshop, a dance room, a library, a sewing workshop and a rock climbing training board.

Greek mainstream media are framing the issue as if the squats were army headquarters for terrorists, with one journalist caught live calling the squatters “little shits” (video in Greek). The main angle adopted by mainstream journalists is that the squatters had no right to be in the building(s) in the first place, that this is illegal and that the squatters are destroying these neighbourhoods and the buildings.

Naturally, there are many who are convinced by the “legal” argument. Now, here are some other facts:

George Papaconstantinou is an ex-Finance  Minister who has been accused of manipulating the so-called Lagarde list, a catalogue of Greeks that hold accounts in Switzerland (and could be tax evaders) and removing the names of members of his family (more here). He has not been arrested.

Meanwhile, Greeks are called upon to pay exorbitant taxes each year, additional taxes, leading many to poverty, migration or homelessness.

In addition, there have been hundreds of incidents which implicates the police in exercising unwarranted and excessive violence to demonstrators and to immigrants – the latest one today by BBC (here and here) . These are often not investigated and if they are, it is after years. The Minister for Public Order, Nikos Dendias has promised to look into the issue but no progress has been made (more here).

One can support or not the squatters.

But there comes a point where you have to take a stand.

And in Greece 2013, you can either be with the current government or against it.

All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.

Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience (1849)

Athens, 15 June

In News on June 15, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Today, 15 June 2011 is the day when the Greek Parliament debates on the new austerity measures (medium-term programme) requested by the EU and IMF in return for a second bail-out package. The austerity programme (€28 billion in cuts)  is to be implemented from 2012 to 2015 and includes a list of privatizations and tax increases. These measures are demanded by the EU and IMF in return for the release of another €12billion, which will allow Greece to pay off maturing debt. Today was also the day on which the trade unions (both of the private and public sectors) had called for a general strike, the third in 2011.

Since this morning, thousands of Greeks were gathering in Athens’s central square (Constitution square) in front of the parliament. At the same time, the Police’s special force units or Public Order Restoration units (MAT) were barracking themselves and the parliament building, behind plastic protective walls and iron barriers.

The protest started peacefully with the demonstrators shouting “bread, education, freedom”, the same phrase which was shouted in the falling days of the Greek junta (1967-1974). But soon enough there were clashes between police and rioters, who threw Molotov bombs. Naturally, the police replied with tear gas and flash bangs.

There was a great debate in the Greek media about whether the rioters were citizens with seeking to express themselves violently, anarchists, hooded thugs or provocateurs, i.e. men who were intentionally placed among the demonstrators (by the government? By the police?) with the aim of causing trouble and in effect breaking up the demonstration. Photographs released this morning by several Greek blogs show hooded youngsters among policemen – a common picture in previous Greek demonstrations – and men carrying stick poles under the eyes of special forces units (See here and here). The police denies the accusations.

Whatever the truth is, there was one result. By 4pm Greek time, the centre of Athens was soaked in tear gas, there were eight people hurt (the total toll by now is twenty nine), the Constitution square was empty, while rioters and police were playing hide-and-seek in the streets leading to the Constitution Square. The demonstration was broken up.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister George Papandreou is holding talks with the President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and the opposition leader Antonis Samaras  with the aim of forming a government of national unity. The Greek media is filled with special reports about the new government’s possible ministerial posts and guesses on whether the new “unity” government will last six months or three years (the full length of the austerity programme). Presumably, the Greek PM seeks to secure consent across the political spectrum in order for the medium-term programme to be implemented in full.

The question arises: What is the value of a democracy when the police are guarding the parliament with iron walls and barricades, in order to protect it from the demonstrators? What is the quality of a political system where its political elites protected by armed forces conspire to go ahead with the exact programme which the majority of Greeks oppose? Is this bail-out worth this degradation of Greek democracy?

P.S. More pictures from today’s demonstrations (from indymediademotix, and the Boston Globe).