A Letter From The Greek Rioters
We're not trying to be condescending here, but JUST IN CASE YOU DON'T KNOW, everyone in Greece is very angry at the moment. Mostly because the country is so extremely dirt poor it's becoming the IMF's bitch. Our friend was protesting out there yesterday and sent us these words and these pictures.
On Tuesday morning, I woke up as I would do any other day at around 8.30am to finish some sketches for work. By 10.30am, though, I was back out on Syntagma Square. The 48-hour national strike was commencing, and within half an hour of my arrival the square - which has become a base camp for everyone who's Greek and disgruntled - was full. Full of trade unionists, anarchists, junkies, militant students, police and other people who may or may not have been hired by the police to crack protester skulls.
Mainly though, it was full of Indignados: average people. It's not often that the average are awarded their own quasi-mystical moniker. It's not often that they are able or willing to come together under the same banner, especially a banner that was first held aloft by the Spanish. I'm sure some people would like to believe that this signified a European Spring, but I don't know about that.
The Indignados have been residents of Syntagma Square for over a month now, and as time's worn on the spirit of resistance has gradually quietened. Monday was an extremely quiet day, but then given what has happened since then, I guess there's a reason the phrase "calm before the storm" exists.
It wasn't long before the first round of tear gas bombs were thrown in our direction. They came completely out of the blue, but this action on the police's part sparked everyone into action. The crowd went berserk. It's always this way. I know for a fact that yesterday the police had been ordered to disperse the crowd at whatever cost, so when the police began their assault, they did so extremely quickly. That's the topic of discussion among the crowd today: just what lengths the police will go to in order to clear Syntagma before the latest bill on austerity measures is discussed in Greek parliament.
Frankly, at this point it wouldn't be a surprise if someone died. There's even talk of certain organisations being hired by the police to fight the protesters in plain clothes and with weapons the police are not allowed to use. The police in Greece operate autonomously now. All ties with the Ministry of Public Order seem to have severed. They pretty much do what they want.
I was on Vasilissis Sofias street yesterday, and all of a sudden the road was swarmed by an army of police motorcycles. There must have been 500 of them, all driving towards us. One would have thought a coup was taking place.
After that, it was chaos again. Everywhere you looked there were small groups of people fighting, throwing stones, breaking windows and pretty much everything else they encountered. As a witness, you can't really tell one person from another, but there are certain faces you see around all the time. At times, the police and the protesters seemed to call each other by name, and whenever the more militant sections of the crowd or the Indignados would break something, they'd do it in a relatively controlled manner. It was like a strange theatre was playing out in Athens, one exploring the themes of human frustration, the nature of farce, and how bad tear gas tastes.
In Athens now there are always people giving the finger, calling each other out, running around like lunatics in hand-made masks. The thing that's impressed me the most has been the hardening of the photographers. A few months ago they wouldn't dare come down to the protests, but now they stand right in the middle of things, with stones and gas bombs raining down upon them continuously. The stones are the craziest things of all – they're less stones, more gigantic pieces of rock. If you turned your eyes to the ground of Filellinon and Amalias street on Tuesday, you'd feel like you were standing on a pebble beach.
By 7pm the riots had stopped, and the crowd had started gathering at the square again. This time it was families, granddads and grandmas, little children who'd come for the 9pm concert. There was to be no concert, though. An hour after the rioting had stopped, and just as the speakers were calling for people to gather to hear the music – played by 80s and 90s Greek rock bands like Tiger Lilies, Vangelis Germanos and Vasilis Papakonstantinou – the police started another tear gas bombardment. The crowd dispersed, this time there was no violence.
By 10pm, people were back in the square, camping again. I couldn't sleep Tuesday night – I guess I was still loaded with the day's adrenaline – and as I write, I know that tomorrow will be even more eventful. Wednesday is the big day. The culmination of everything we've been experiencing for the last few months. Whichever way parliament votes on the latest austerity bill, everyone knows things will turn ugly. It's the last angry day, the end of all the suspense. After that, things should calm down a great deal. It's almost July, and people have been on the square for 35 days. They're completely worn out. And that is why the police will come down in chariots and armed to the teeth.
WORDS: STUPID GREG
PHOTOS: ACROPOLIS NOW
Today the latest austerity bill was passed through the Greek parliament by 155 votes to 138. If a second vote on Thursday – aimed at reforming the laws that currently prevent the new austerity measures being implemented – is passed, then an £98bn EU and IMF loan will give Greece another six months to turn its economy around or completely run out of money.
Popular feeling seems to suggest that the more likely scenario is the latter, which isn't gonna do much for a government's popularity when its already slashing public sector salaries and pensions, and attempting to impose sweeping tax hikes upon a population currently experiencing 16% unemployment.
Check back on Viceland tomorrow for more news.