If you come to Greece during Christmas, you’ll find piles of walnut-crusted melomakarona cookies; buttery, snow-white kourambiethes; caramelized pork; and a yeasted bread called christopsomo. It’s all delicious, but be careful what you pick off the supermarket shelves during your holiday shopping—some products may have been poisoned by anarchists.
On December 19, the Greek self-styled anarchist group Black and Greek Arsonists posted a statement on the anarchist-run blog Indymedia entitled “Green Nemesis Act 3.” The group claims they took some beloved food products off the shelves of supermarkets in the country’s capital, Athens, and its second largest city, Thessaloniki, and injected the products with hydrochloric acid. The group plans to surreptitiously return the products to supermarket shelves from December 20 to 24—just in time for Christmas in this deeply religious, Orthodox Christian country.
Citing “practical reasons,” the group helpfully detailed which items are to be contaminated: 1.5-liter bottles of Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Light; a popular tube-shaped luncheon meat called Yfantis (350- and 500-gram packages); and Delta whole milk. In the photos accompanying the post, a heavily gloved hand is seen poking a syringe into the various food products.
Hydrochloric acid is a colorless, odorless solution of hydrogen chloride in water. Considered a toxic substance by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it is highly corrosive and can cause immediate damage when ingested, inducing severe throat pain, shock, and bloody vomiting.
Greek anarchist groups have a long history of shaking up the nation’s societal structure, and they play a complex role in the country’s history. Anarchist groups were instrumental in toppling the Papadopoulos’ military dictatorship of the 1970s; in the 1990s they helped push through educational reforms. Today, many so-called anarchist groups are staunchly pacifistic, involved in community organizing activities, taking care of refugees, and providing resources for drug addicts.
But since the economic crisis, a new wave of militant groups who advocate more public violence have emerged. Hundreds of bomb attacks have taken place across Athens. Protests and riots have become increasingly violent, with hurled petrol bombs and Molotov cocktails. Last month, a lawyer representing a Greek collective of photojournalists was shot in the leg by a homemade flare bomb while attending a protest to ensure police respected photographers.
This is the third year that such groups (they systematically change their names) have engaged in this activity. “I would categorize this as terror activity,” Mary Bossis, an associate professor of International Relations at University of Piraeus and an expert on left-wing militancy, told MUNCHIES by phone. “They are not political activists, they are criminals.”
The Greek state certainly thinks the same; the Counter Terrorism Unit of the Hellenic Police is investigating this year’s claim. In its manifesto, the group declares:
“These days, thousands and thousands of Christians will leave their couch to make the necessary shopping for their Christmas tables, to fill their empty lives with consumable rubbish covered in beautiful, glittering wrapping. The victims of this feast are the millions of living creatures that are slaughtered to arrive at the tables of the living, drained to the last drop of blood to satisfy their palates.”
Though Greece has seen an uptick in animal-rights activities, the Black and Green Arsonists are not vegans fighting against carnivorous gluttony. The foods they have chosen to poison—processed meat, soda, dairy—are consumed daily by most Greeks, Christian or otherwise. “This targets predominately young people, as they are the main consumers of these products,” Bossis said.
Food contamination for political or economic motives was popular in the 1970s and 80s. In 1978, a group called the Arab Revolutionary Army injected mercury into oranges imported from Israel with the intention of damaging the country’s economy. In 1984, a religious cult bent on disrupting local elections contaminated American salad bars with salmonella. Chilean grapes were infected with cyanide in 1989; over 100 Chilean growers and shippers went bankrupt.
This kind of activity is new in Greece, and Bossis pointed out that the Black and Green Arsonists don’t have a clear political message. “They only think within their own category of thinking. It’s a group of people that believes [...] they are hurting multinational corporations. Which is not true. This terror activity [...] alienates them and puts them in the category of criminals and not political activists.”
In the anarchist strong-hold neighborhood of Exarchia, however, employees at a local supermarket have no qualms with the group’s actions. “They are targeting Greek companies that make their products outside of Greece,” one cashier told me with a shrug. “And those companies can go fuck themselves.”