The eyes of the presidential guard that stands outside of the Greek parliament once again shed tears for our democracy yesterday. Known as the “Evzone” this guard is representative of our democracy and everything it stands for… and when his eyes tear, it is a sheer sign that our democracy has been ravaged. The picture, which was taken in similar riots three years ago, is a symbolic representation of what all Greeks feel today in the aftermath to yesterday’s riots. I am no exception….
I, just like many other tens of thousands of Greeks, descended to Syntagma Square yesterday in order to participate in the peaceful protests that were going on there for the past 36 days and when I arrived… the only thing I saw was a cloud of tear gas.
Do I panic and leave, or do I stay? I decided to stay.
At first the anarchists were confined to one area of the Square, and the indignants continued to protest peacefully. One of the protest organisers (on a bull horn) advised us not to panic, and remain intact, while many other people started descending to the metro.
This lasted for about ten minutes.
And then all of a sudden, and for no reason whatsoever, all hell broke loose.
Someone threw some tear gas at our feat, and thousands of people began to run in panic. I felt I was going to be trampled on. I was pushed to the bottom of the Square, we were safe here, and the wind was working to our advantage as it was blowing the tear gas the opposite way.
Up on the square, the anarchists and the riot police continued to attack each other and then they began to descend to the square as well, from the side of Othonos. This is when many protesters began to once again make their way to the upper section of the square but more riot police arrived and were not permitting people to enter the square.
From hereafter it was a give and take between police and anarchists, something that lasted almost 20-30 minutes. The police tactics were simple. They enacted a long-planned strategy, trapping the protesters, violent or not in four areas. At the bottom of the Square near Ermou, on the side of Fillelinon, on Mitropoleos Street and under the metro. There was no escape. Even if you wanted to leave, you would have to walk over thousands of people to do so.
THIS VIDEO WAS TAKEN A DAY EARLIER (JUNE 28), WHEN THE RIOTS BEGAN..
Once established, the cordon slowly squeezed, each police charge rolling past any of the protesters who refused to move, either by hitting and/or clubbing them, or throwing tens of canisters of tear gas at the people.
If I were to design a system to provoke and alienate a crowd of people, I could not do better….
It is difficult to say when I felt enough was enough, and decided to make my escape. Perhaps it was when some anarchists began to come our way with barrels of rocks and marble slabs.
This is when fear took over.
THE MAINSTREAM NEWS, FOR THE FIRST TIME, SHOWED A VIDEO PROVING OUR FEARS
THAT THE GOVERNMENT USED PROVACATEURS, DRESSED AS ANARCHISTS, TO STIR UP
CHAOS IN THE CROWD. WATCH THE VIDEO, IT IS NOW DOCUMENTED PROOF.
People that have been caught up in large crowds might be able to tell you what it’s like. They might know why they responded a certain way but chances are many will probably not. It has been my experience that a minority of people posses the strength of individual thought in these types of situations to be able to make a conscious and ethical choice. It can be surprisingly easy to become one of the victims, or one of the culprits depending on the circumstances.
I did not want and refused to become a culprit. I had to get out of there. It was getting difficult to breath, and the napkin covering my face was becoming intoxicated. The metro was my only escape. As I ran to the metro and made my way downstairs, the only thing I saw were traces of white powder from the chemicals. They were everywhere.
As I looked around, all I saw were people on the floor, others sitting by themselves in corners, others crouched over and crying, others being moved by stretchers to the metro’s clinic, people with gauzes on their hands, heads and legs. Red cross workers running in a frenzy, others trying to give courage to their friends, others screaming, others crying, elderly people that were unconscious, women and children that were trying to catch their breath, others clapping to keep people’s spirits up, and others in a complete and utter panic. And all I could hear were the sounds of the sirens that blaring outside and until this moment are still echoing in my ears.
JUST LISTEN TO THE CRIES OF THE PEOPLE… THE VIDEO IS SHOCKING
And then all of a sudden the riot police threw tear gas at the entrance of the metro… and all the toxic smoke came indoors.
Breathing became impossible.
I couldn’t see anything for a few seconds and refused to open my eyes. They still began to water… and my skin felt like it was going to be torn off my body.
My nose began to burn and I felt the most incredible pain in my lungs, my breaths became short and long. I opened my eyes and began looking around to see where I could escape to, but I had no strength to get up. I felt like I was losing all my senses.
Luckily for me at this point a young girl in a gas mask appeared and told me to hold up my head, and she sprayed the area around my eyes with a Maalox liquid to ease the stinging.
Then a young boy asked me if I had a gas mask and I answered no, so he gave me two bottles of water and I used one bottle to wet my head, and my napkin again, and then I covered my face with the napkin.
But the burning did not wear off, the pain in my chest did not cease, and I still did not have strength to stand up.
I want to explain what this feels like to all of you.
The chemicals the riot police used did not just cause discomfort, but they made it very difficult to breath. At first the toxins burn your nostrils and it is difficult to pump air into your body, then you feel your lungs burning (it is the most horrendous feeling). There is no exaggeration about it, you literally feel like you are living the last moments of your life and either pass out, or you feel like throwing up.
It was at this point that I thought I too was going to die and I just broke down and began to cry.
I sat there in tears in a cloud of intoxicated smoke, with a wet handkerchief on my face, a bottle of water in my hand for well over 15 minutes, and stared into oblivion.
Time froze for me.
THIS IS WHERE THEY BEGAN THROWING TOXIC GAS IN THE AREA
OF THE METRO, MEANWHILE THERE WERE PEOPLE THAT WERE SERIOUSLY HURT
INSIDE ITS LOWER LEVELS OR HAVING TROUBLE BREATHING, MYSELF INCLUDED.
The only thing I asked myself is why?
How can this be?
These protestors were singing the Greek national anthem they were protesting peacefully, they were not rioting. There was no need for the police to rush them off the square.
The protestors had their hands up in the air, they were not carrying any weapons… they were not provoking anyone.
Why did the police attack the very people that pay their wages?
Who ordered them to do so?
Who told them that this is what we want from our so called protectors?
Why so much tear gas?
For what reason?
Then I felt shame.
Shame for our leaders, and especially the present government.
Shame for the amount of deception it has implemented on the people of this country since the end of WW2.
Shame that inside that parliament building our government officials were totally unmoved by our screams, or the blaring sirens that are still echoing in my ears today!
Shame because they did not even consider our safety.
This made me angry and I began to feel outrage and disgust. Rage towards the government for showing us that when you do not bow to its wishes then you are attacked and brutally beaten and disgust that through their actions they made us feel that they have literally spit on this country’s constitution and whatever we thought was a democracy.
Rage, for making us feel that they have taken away our sense of freedom, for not allowing us as citizens to feel secure in the very nation that gave birth to democracy and disgust for clubbing innocent people “for our own security” (as they say) when in truth it is for their security they fear.
Then I just left. I wanted to return home, where I could find comfort with my pillow.
Later on that night and after sitting in complete silence for many hours, I found out that all of this is termed “riot control”.
This I accept, but why diffuse a potential confrontation, when there was no confrontation in the first place to diffuse?
When police (and the government who gives them orders to do so) use so much force simply as a means of projecting authority, then they are simply acting out of fear and mental weakness. They are no better than the thugs –or anarchists- who they should be arresting instead of being in conflict with.
I feel sorry for their commanders and/or trainers, who almost certainly drilled into each officer’s mind that at any time, the peaceful protests could spontaneously erupt into violence. And the only way to prevent this catastrophe was to use extreme force against anyone who appeared to be a ringleader or to physically intimidate anyone who came near, or even to violently apprehend anyone who failed to immediately comply with any command, no matter how unreasonable.
THIS VIDEO SHOWS HOW THE POLICE, IN AN EFFORT TO SHOW THEIR FORCE, AND FOR NO
REASON WHATSOEVER, RAIDED THE MONASTIRAKI AREA AND SCARED THE TOURISTS AND
THE INNOCENT CIVILIANS SITING THERE AND HAVING LUNCH AT THE SAME TIME THAT THE RIOTS WERE HAPPENING 500 METERS AWAY. IS THIS DEMOCRACY MR. PAPANDREOU? IN A PERIOD WHEN WE ARE LIVING IN ECONOMIC TYRANNY, IS IT WISE TO GIVE ORDERS TO YOUR POLICE CHIEFS
TO FRIGHTEN THE FEW TOURISTS THAT HAVE COME HERE THIS YEAR? SHAME ON YOU!
Yesterday I realized that I live in a country that is launching a vicious crackdown on people who do not agree with its policies, who have the courage to object. I live in a country that restricts free speech and that uses the police to destroy what little personal freedom we have left as a people.
I live in a country where the government gives orders to arrest people for attempting to have “an opinion” and instills fear of arrest and imprisonment into its citizens as a way of keeping them from making their voice heard. However, there is good to come of this. Some of the culprits can be identified, and opinions on their actions can be easily expressed. An impressive amount of photos and videos have already been posted in Facebook, and/or were uploaded on Youtube in hopes that some justice will be served.
And yes… after yesterday the only opinion I have about Greek politics is that it is a total joke. It is a theater and a way to divide and conquer us (the people) in the only realm that really matters, economics…. the only realm of our lives where democracy has yet to bubble up and make its presence known. What good is democracy in politics if politics is owned by amoral, fascist businessmen and/or yes men who want to dictate the entire spectrum of our lives?
Mr Papandreou, I am ashamed when a proud soldier cries… and I am ashamed that you are leading this country and disgusted that you ordered for all of this to happen to us.
Before Leonidas of Sparta died he said “please remember us,” and I say with the little courage that is still left in me after witnessing the death of freedom in this country, experiencing the torment to have the will to defend it… and that is willing to continue to believe that she could change the world… that I might be ashamed of you and everything your government and confidants have done to kill democracy in the country that gave birth to it… but I will never allow you to make me feel ashamed of being Greek, and most importantly “I will always remember this day,,, for it was the day you killed our democracy”.
THE DAY AFTER… THE CITY THAT 8 YEARS AGO HOSTED THE OLYMPIC GAMES LOOKS MORE LIKE A GARBAGE DUMP. STORES WERE LOOTED, AND BECAUSE THEY RECEIVED ORDERS TO SCARE PEOPLE POLICE RAIDS DID NOT STOP IN SYNTAGMA SQUARE, THERE WERE ATTACKS ON INNOCENT CIVILIANS IN TOURIST AREAS SUCH AS MONASTIRAKI (view video above) AS WELL AS OTHER
CAFES, TAVERNAS AND EVEN FRUIT AND VEGETABLE SHOPS AROUND THE CITY PERIMETER.
IS THIS WHAT DEMOCRACY IS MR. PAPANDREOU? SHAME ON YOU AND YOUR GOV’T.