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Greece: Teargas under the Acropolis

The financial crisis gripping Greece has led to new clashes between protesting workers and police, most recently at the foot of the Acropolis of Athens on October 13 when riot police teargassed contract employees of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, who were protesting against unpaid wages and demanding permanent contracts. The protesters were barricading themselves inside the Acropolis, a major tourist destination, and threatening to block access for the rest of the month.

Citizen journalists were absent from the scene, but an amateur video of the clashes did make the rounds:

Reactions varied greatly on Twitter, abuzz with commentary from users who were watching the events unfold on TV.

Last year, the minister of Citizen Protection -who has since been replaced- promised to ban police chemicals, a pledge that has yet to be honored by the government.

Dimitris Tsigos was horrified at the use of teargas beneath the “holy rock”, and said:

It's absolutely horrible and disgusting. Tear-gassing protesters a few meters from Parthenon, the ultimate asylum of ancient history. #EU

He also appropriated a well known Culture and Tourism Ministry slogan, which has become the butt of many jokes in recent years:

The “Breath Your Gas In Greece” campaign is on again. Now live at the Acropolis. #TeargassedInAcropolis

Political scientist Christos Valtadoros criticized the protesting employees,

Συμβασιούχοι του Υπουργείου Πολιτισμού που δεν σέβονται τον Πολιτισμό…

Contracted employees of the Culture Ministry who don't respect Culture

… and lawyer George Giannaros questioned their demands and chosen method of protest:

Ο ορισμός της δημοκρατικής διεκδίκησης: να αξιώνεις μονιμότητα στο Δημόσιο εκτός ΑΣΕΠ παράνομα και να αλλάζεις κλειδαριές στην Ακρόπολη. WIN

The definition of democratic demands: to petition for permanence in civil service illegally and to change the locks at the Acropolis WIN

Exarvi proposed less disruptive means of protest,

Οι συμβασιούχοι που διαμαρτύρονται θα έπρεπε να κάνουν μια “θεαματική” διαμαρτυρία αφήνοντας όμως τους τουρίστες να μπαίνουν Ακρόπολη

The protesting contract employees should make a “spectacular” protest but let tourists enter the Acropolis

Film producer Yannis Koutsomitis was adamant:

Απαράδεκτο και αισχρό το να είναι απλήρωτοι. ΙΜΟ όμως η Ακρόπολη δεν κλείνει ποτέ, αλλά ποτέ. Για κανένα λόγο. Τέλος.

It's wretched and unacceptable for them to be unpaid. But in my opinion, the Acropolis should never, ever close. For no reason, period.

Unemployed journalist @The_Stranger_gr stoically observed that protests and police violence have become a way of life in recent years:

Ξυπνάς. Βλέπεις στην τηλεόραση μπάτσους να πετάνε δακρυγόνα και να κυνηγάνε διαδηλωτές. “Just another normal day in Athens”, σκέφτεσαι.

You wake up. You watch cops on TV throwing teargas and chasing protesters. ‘Just another normal day in Athens”, you think.

Disagreeing with this outlook, photographer Craig Wherlock accused the government of intransigence on his blog:

Once again the authorities have mixed indifference, incompetence and violent overreaction into a volatile cocktail which confirms many Greek's worst opinion of the government.

Instead of negotiation and discussion, batons and tear gas were used, so inflaming a tense situation and sending the message to the outside world that Greece is racked by violent confrontation. Of course, this is not the case, but by providing such images the authorities are doing everything in their power to promote this idea.

Blogger krotkaya accused the state of having financially abandoned archaeological sites and mused bitterly on the modern meaning of culture:

Αν για μας ιστορία και πολιτισμός είναι καλά για τα μουσεία και τα σχολικά εγχειρίδια και η ζωή μας είναι αλλού, τότε προφανώς αποτελούν προσβολή οι συμβασιούχοι που διαμαρτύρονται στην Ακρόπολη, το πανώ του ΚΚΕ στον Παρθενώνα ή το φώτοσοπ του Focus. Τι μας θυμίζει άλλωστε αυτό το συγκεκριμένο μνημείο: το μέτρο της Αρχαίας Αθήνας, την ισορροπία, τη λογική, το δημοκρατικό πολίτευμα. [..] Αν το βλέπεις έτσι το μνημείο, ζωντανό, παλλόμενο, αναπνέον -τότε μάλλον θα κατάλαβες πως το έπιασε δύσπνοια όταν του έριξαν χημικά οι μαντραχαλάδες [..] Δεν είναι σήμερα που συνέβη η αμαύρωση του πολιτισμού στην Ελλάδα: αυτό που συνέβη σήμερα ήταν το κερασάκι στην τούρτα της πολιτικής υπονόμευσης και σαμποτάζ του πολιτισμού, που επικρατεί εδώ και πολλά χρόνια

If we see history and civilization as only good for museums and schoolbooks, and irrelevant to our lives, then obviously protesting employees and communist banners at the Acropolis, and the Focus photo montage offend us.  [..] What does this monument symbolize, anyway: the measure of Ancient Athens, balance, logic, democracy. [..] If you perceive the monument like that, living, pulsing, breathing, then you probably understand why it suffocated from teargas [..] Greek civilization wasn't defiled today; what happened was the icing on the cake of political subversion and the sabotage of civilization, ongoing for many years

Sotiris Koukios had no easy answers, only questions that have been gripping public discourse for years:

μέχρι που φτάνει το δικαίωμα της διαμαρτυρίας; Υπάρχουν όρια τελικά; Θα βοηθήσει ως πίεση η προβολή διεθνώς των διαμαρτυριών; Θα βελτιώσει σε κάτι τις ζωές όλων μας αλλά ιδιαιτέρως αυτών που διαμαρτύρονται;

Ποιο είναι το όριο της αντίδρασης της κυβέρνησης; ειδικά όταν το δημόσιο έχει άδικο και δεν έχει πληρώσει τους ανθρώπους επί τόσο μεγάλο χρονικό διάστημα; Η απάντηση είναι τα ΜΑΤ; Και η σύγκρουση με τέτοιο τρόπο αποτελεί κατά την κυβέρνηση λύση; Βελτιώνει σε τίποτε την θέση της διεθνώς; Βελτιώνει σε τίποτε την οικονομική κατάσταση της χώρας;

Where does the right to protest end? Are there limits? Will global media attention on these protests help to put pressure on the government?

Where's the limit of the government's response, especially when the state is in the wrong and hasn't paid these people for such a long period of time? Are riot squads the response? And does this kind of conflict constitute a solution? Does it improve it's international standing? Does it improve the financial situation of the country at all?

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