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Greece: General strike rallies met with violence

General strike rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki on Thursday, 11 March against a second wave of austerity measures dictated by eurozone finance ministers were met with preemptive and simultaneous police attacks, according to citizen media reports.

Tireless realtime citizen photojournalism

Citizen journalists reporting on rallies and clashes in both cities “carried the day”, once again using Twitter and resurrecting the #griots hashtag, to post regular updates that painted a picture of the conflicts quite different from that reported by international mainstream media.

First teargas rounds against Athens demo (@odysseasgp)

First teargas rounds against Athens demo (@odysseasgp)

Reports of early and unprovoked police crackdowns of the rallies taking place in the two cities were almost simultaneous. In Athens, Odysseas tweeted soon after the rally had started,

Ακουστικά από μπροστά κροτου λαμψης και δακρυγόνα κοντά στο Πολυτεχνείο

flashbangs from up ahead and teargas near the Polytehnic

..followed by panwsk, from the gathering rallies in Thessaloniki, within minutes:

Απρόκλητη χρήση χημικών αυτήν τη στιγμή μπροστά στη Χαλκέων!

unprovoked use of chemicals right now in front of Chalkeon (church)

From then on, and for nearly 4 hours, Odysseas used Twitter to provide a near continuous reporting of police actions throughout the march and successive skirmishes in downtown Athens, along with photos posted on yfrog from his cellphone, while PanwsK similarly posted reports from the significantly briefer, smaller and more peaceful rally in Thessaloniki.

Freelance photographers often crowd together for protection when covering protests, which makes them easy targets of police charges. Photojournalist endiaferon, who had captured a sneak police attack on photographers during a recent rally in time-lapse fashion, once again bore witness to police violence against reporters,

Σε κάποιον που τραβούσε βίντεο του όρμησε άνδρας των ΜΑΤ, του πήρε τη κασέτα και του έσκασε κουτουλιά στο κεφάλι με το κράνος…

Someone shooting video was rushed by a riot squaddie, who took his tape and headbutted him with the helmet

..and even against foreign correspondents:

Η ίδια διμοιρία επιτέθηκε σε ξένο φωτογράφο. The motherfucker went straight on me φώναζε ο ρεπόρτερ. Και τα δύο περιστατικά έγιναν δίπλα μου

The same platoon attacked a foreign photographer. “The motherfucker went straight on me”, shouted the reporter. Both incidents happened near me

Veteran photojournalist Craig Wherlock tweeted his observations from the Thessaloniki rally afterwards, confirming earlier reports of unprovoked police aggression,

The police here in Thessaloniki wanted to cause trouble, intervened when nothing was happening in order to provoke marchers #griots

and luridly describing the mood of protesters

What can u say about a place when teachers have to protect themselves from tear gas and pensioners are so angry they lob eggs at the cops?

Gorillas in the Mist (Craig Wherlock)

Gorillas in the Mist (Craig Wherlock)

Several citizen photojournalists, including Wherlock and endiaferon, later uploaded their take of the day on citizen photojournalism site Demotix, which had set up a dedicated Greece unrest hub during last December's riots.

Peaceful and violent video reports

Blogger Giorgos Sarris posted photos as well as videos from the massive and initially peaceful Athens workers’ rallies, comparing them in participation with the Polytechnic ones, in the years following the ousting of the colonels’ junta,

while blogger GiaNT posted several frontline videos of the skirmishes that followed around downtown Omonia Square between anarchists and police after the crackdown, and the ousting of riot police later on from Exarchia square -besieged by police since the socialist government took power- where 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was gunned down by police in December 2008.

Ministerial silence on Twitter

Besides multimedia reporting, many citizens simply used Twitter throughout the day to report and protest police brutality and the heavy, indiscriminate use of teargas in Athens; some, directly to the minister of Citizen Protection. Journalist and prolific blogger AnemosNaftilos cautioned,

Ηλικιωμένοι και μικρά παιδιά με αναπνευστικά προβλήματα. Εχει δημιουργηθεί πανικός.

Elderly people and little children with respiratory problems. Panic has set in.

while journalist Matthew Tsimitakis sought the reason for the crackdown,

Η πορεία σε αδικαιολογητο κλοιό και χημικά @chrisochoidis για ποιο λόγο ; Δεν υπάρχουν πουθενά βίαιες ομάδες. Είναι εργατική πορεία

The rally is unjustifiably kettled and teargassed, @chrisochoidis; why? There are no violent groups anywhere. It's a workers’ rally

and Andreas Trianta, the architect of an Obameter-style application to gauge fulfillment of the socialist government's campaign promises, angrily avowed:

@chrisochoidis μέρα ντροπής για όσους από μας στηρίζουν ΠΑΣΟΚ. Αδιανόητο να μη μπορούν πολίτες να διαδηλώνουν ελεύθερα επί κυβερνήσεως ΓΑΠ

@chrisochoidis shameful day for those of us who supported [the socialist party]. Inconceivable for citizens to be unable to protest freely under Papandreou's government

A day earlier, the minister, who had responded to excessive police brutality charges during last December's riots with -as yet unimplemented- promises to ban teargas use and institute reforms, was confirming the much derided launch of an official Twitter account for the police. This time, however, remained conspicuously silent throughout the day and night.

Blogging lawyer xasodikis echoed a sentiment common among bloggers, and reaffirmed with every instance of police-related news in recent weeks,

Το Νέο Πρόσωπο της αστυνομίας μοιάζει ύποπτα με το παλιό. Έστω και με twitter account.

The New Face of the police looks suspiciously like the old one. Even with a twitter account.

and an unnamed blogger summed up the seething popular frustration leading to the vicious circle of riots and crackdowns, aptly enough, in a Tumblr called “Things I learned“:

People are angry. Angry at bad politicians who are stealing their money, angry at bankers asking them to pay off their loans, angry at journalists for being corrupted, angry at “foreign powers” for wanting to destroy Greece, angry at their neighbor for being their neighbor. At some point the reason for all the anger stops having importance and what’s left is the process of setting it free. [..] It’s not just a financial crisis what we live. Causes should be searched deeper into the society. In case we want to be done with it.

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