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Greece: “We Gave Birth to Democracy, and We Killed It!”

Below is one of the many stories that you hear these days in the streets of Athens; it stands out because it is part of an article titled Flirting With Death, written by Giorgos Aygeropoulos, an award-winning Greek journalist known for his coverage of clashes, wars and protests:

[...] Let’s take things from the beginning. At about 13.30 there are a lot of people gathered in front of the Parliament. They are not hood-wearers. They are not throwing rocks. They are elderly, young, women, men, students, workers, unemployed who are shouting slogans, who are making the familiar hand gesture to the Parliament, and the most hot-blooded are right in front—at the most they launched insults and shook the railings which were set up in front of the monument of the Unknown Soldier. Nothing important in other words which would justify what would follow. All of a sudden, from everywhere, from right, from left, and from the centre, a general attack of the police forces began which pushed the protestors towards the steps of Syntagma Square. Imagine thousands of people running frantically towards a narrow opening of a width of not more than 10 metres. From behind them the riot police throw stun and flash grenades into the crowd and teargas, creating panic. People are burned by the flames, drowned in the tear gas, they can’t see in front of them, and they start to step on one another and to tumble down the steps. People faint, others are stepped on in the blood. Despite all this, the police do not leave. They hit anyone they find in front of them with their clubs, people in other words who are running to save themselves, stepping on one another. [...]

After more than a month of peaceful protests and gatherings at Syntagma (Constitution) Square, protesters were planning to surround the House of the Parliament last Wednesday, June 29, the day for which the vote for the Mid-Term Austerity Programme had been scheduled. But the Greek autorities were determined to not let it happen.

According to Article 11 of the Greek Constitution, “outdoor assemblies may be prohibited by a reasoned police authority decision, in general if a serious threat to public security is imminent, and in a specific area, if a serious disturbance of social and economic life is threatened, as specified by law.”

In this case, there was no serious threat to public security, because the majority of the protesters were ordinary people with their families, angry with their government and disappointed with the politics that had led them to poverty. And the authorities needed Plan B – which was to attack and to fire up the already tense atmosphere.

One of the grenades thrown at the protesters in Athens, with the expiry date of 08-95. Twitpic photo by @Gerasimoschatzi (Makis Chatzidamianos), June 29, 2011.

Amnesty International issued a press release on the use of chemicals in the streets of Athens on June 29. The Greek Medical Association for the Protection of the Environment and Against Nuclear and Biochemical Threat stated in its press realease [el] that the tear gas currently used by the riot police was a chemical weapon and forbidden to use against the enemy at war.

Despite hard conditions, twitter users who were taking part in the protests managed to send their messages to the world using the hashtags #Syntagma and #29jgr.

Below are some of the examples of the impressive work that was done via Twitter.

@TheLiveProject (ThePressProject.net):

Chemical war in Syntagma, day 2.Tons of tear gas.Protesters were a bit closer to the barrier than police felt comfortable with.

@northaura (spyros gkelis):

urgent, desperate call for doctors to immediately go #syntagma please RT there are injured people there and rescue team doesn't cope #29jgr

@thesspirit (Sofia Thesspirit):

thesspirit Sofia Thesspirit
Police just hit directly to us. We were running, I saw a man spitting blood, 3 more fainted 3 steps away from me. Its really bad.#Syntagma

@thesspirit:

Earlier today I heard the police radio orders and it was clear “evacuate the streets” and mins later police wiped off people with chemicals.

@thesspirit:

#syntagma sqr has been gas/flash bombed for 12 whole hours now #greekdemo #greekrevolution Plz RT so that the world knows what is happening.

The following YouTube video posted by user RealDemocracyGr shows, among other things, a protester in Athens calling to a police officer to leave the square and not to hit him – and the police officer hitting him with a baton stick:

What’s left after all this for Greeks is to wonder what kind of a political system their country has, with the public prosecutor still not reacting to the extreme violence by the police forces during these two days of protests on Tuseday, June 28, and Wednesday, June 29. This is clearly expressed in the following tweets:

@frantzisp (Panagiotis Frantzis):

What is happening in the centre of Athens has a name: proclamation of martial law by banning right of gathering and freedom. #Syntagma

@KostasVaxevanis:

Το μόνο Συνταγματικό αυτή τη στιγμή στην Αθηνα είναι η πλατεία Συντάγματος. Τα υπόλοιπα έχουν καταληθει. Να παρέμβει τώρα ο Πρωθυπουργος

The only thing constitutional at the moment in Athens is Constitution Square. The rest have been nullified. PM to intervene now.

@spdd (Stavros Papadakis):

εμείς γεννήσαμε τη δημοκρατία, εμείς τη σκοτώσαμε! Τουλάχιστον έχουμε το know-how!”

we gave birth to democracy, and we killed it! At least we have the know-how!

@Cyberela:

A state that is elected by the ppl & throw tones of tear-gass @ those ppl, is simply not a democratic state. It's a regime!#j29gr #syntagma

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