Monday, December 22, 2008


Woman in front of Greek Parliament, in protest, shouts at riot police.
The killing of a 15 year old boy, Andreas Alexis Grigoropolous, by an auxiliary policeman, put the match to a fire of uprising that has spread all across Greece. We don't know whether these unleashed furies will lead to a full insurrection that changes the political landscape fundamentally, or if there will be a repressive backlash, or if the right-center government of Prime Minister Karamanlis will fall, or resign, prompting new elections. But a poll taken in the shadow of this violence shows that the vast majority of Greeks believe this revolt has broad support and is not merely a rebellion of a fringe element. There is a long standing animosity not only against police brutality, but against the collusion of the two major political parties, where crimes committed by those in uniform ultimately go unpunished.

The revolt also seems to address the ruinous impact of privatization upon education, and a dearth of employment for 25% of young people, after they leave school and try to find jobs in their own country. There is also the situation, familiar to us in America, of a government whose agencies have so withered from corruption, that there is little evidence of governing at all, while the enrichment of the rich drives the middle class to a state of desperation. The ravages of class war can no longer be ignored as these kids watch the lives of their parents reduced by debts and overwork. "Graft, of course, goes hand in hand with incompetence," as Maria Margaronis writes, in The Guardian. The uprising has been identified as a burden carried mostly by the very young, who have occupied hundreds of schools in protest throughout the country, and come out bravely into the streets.
It is a revolt of schoolchildren and students, most on the street for the first time. There are reports of children as young as 12 battling riot police, shouting "Cops! Pigs! Murderers!"

The teenagers and twenty-somethings who have come close to toppling the Greek government are not the marginalized; this is no replay of the riots that convulsed Paris in 2005. Many are the sons and daughters of the middle classes, shocked at the killing of one of their own, disgusted with the government's incompetence and corruption, enraged by the broken promises of the education system, scared at the prospect of having to work harder than their exhausted parents. [...]

Police violence is not new, it is just that previous victims have been immigrants or Roma and so do not make the media. As usual when there is social dislocation, the far right has gained strength: the populist Orthodox Rally won 10 seats in parliament for the first time last year, and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn organization is known to have supporters inside the police. Now that the lid has blown off the pressure cooker, repression may take more blatant and more violent forms.

Andreas Alexis Grigoropoulos, 15 years old.

On the walls in front of the Greek Parliament, there is graffiti that reads "Alexis, these nights are for you." Throughout the country there is a revolt against the very alienation that the corruption of government has made possible. There is revulsion not merely at police excesses, but at the toleration of those excesses, that reach the highest offices. What the world witnesses in Greece is cause for wonderment, just as Greeks have been a cause of wonderment in times past; and today the coming together of people in the streets, both young and old, reveals much about human solidarity, and a democracy that is still capable of vitality and honesty at the grassroots. People from all walks of life are willing to meet face to face, students and teachers, trade unionists and ordinary laborers, professionals, artisans, and even some from the privileged class. And like Greeks from all times, they have a built-in suspicion of authority.

For example, Indymedia has reported a statement of protesting citizens, who briefly took control at a TV station:
Our action is a response to the accumulated pressures that ravage our lives, and not simply an emotional outburst in the wake of the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos by the Greek police.

We are yet another spontaneous collective that forms part of the social uprising in progress.

In a symbolic move to prevent the media from subduing us, citizens & civilians, we interrupt the newscast of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (NET). We believe that the media systematically cultivates a climate of fear, promoting misinformation as information, and portraying a multi-faceted uprising as an outburst of reckless violence.

The explosion of civil unrest is explained in criminal rather than political terms. Crucial events are selectively brushed under the carpet. The uprising is served up as entertainment, something to watch until the next soap opera comes on. The media are being used as a means of suppressing free and original thought on a daily basis.

Let us organise ourselves. No authority can provide solutions to our problems. We must rally together and turn our public spaces – streets, squares, parks, and schools – into areas of unhindered expression and communication. Let us come together, face to face, side by side, to formulate our cause and our course of action as one.

Let us overcome the fear, switch off our television sets, come out of our houses, continue to assert our rights, and take our lives into our own hands.

We condemn police violence and call for the immediate release of all protesters held in custody.

We stand for emancipation, human dignity, and freedom.


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