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Greece: Police Post Photos of Youth Detained at General Strike

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

Twitter users in Greece reacted in outrage over the detention, abuse and public outing of detained youths in the aftermath of one of the biggest anti-austerity demonstrations in the streets of Athens since the signing of the country’s first bailout deal in 2010, on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.

Hundreds of thousands of Greeks responded to a call for a 24-hour general strike by private and public sector unions. Austerity measures, steep new taxes, wage and pension cuts, as well as health cuts were some of the reasons for the wide participation, despite the sweltering temperatures of the day.

Citizen media collective Radiobubble.gr curated live tweets and news links in English from the protests and also liveblogged in Greek. The strike was overwhelmingly peaceful, even though international media once again focused on violence, which was actually limited.

The workers & trade unions rally overflowed Patission street, from the Polytechnic to Panepistimiou, photo by Asteris Masouras

Big workers’ & trade unions rally overflowing Patission street for many blocks. Photo by Asteris Masouras (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Peace in the streets

Many tweeps reporting from the streets agonized over the outbreaks of violence marring the portrayal of the protests in the media:

@mkahlili: Repeat: Do all you can to keep today's protests peaceful, ppl. If it gets violent, *that* becomes the story+ the msg is lost.#26sgr #Greece

@YannisMouzakis: “Violence, clashes, riots” for one of the most peaceful demos in last two years, how about the 10'000s that took to the streets? #Greece

@IrateGreek: #26sgr Dear intl media, plz stop repeating that demos in #Greece today were violent. As usual, the bulk of the demos were peaceful.

Global Voices author and translator Asteris Masouras exhorted for mainstream media to resist focusing on violence:

@asteris: Journo friend responded that MSM are only interested in footage of violence, was asked by a major network for just riot pr0n

@asteris: Once again: riot sensationalism sells ads but don't forget the masses that protested peacefully under scorching sun today in Athens #26SGR

Workers rallying at syntagma square, in front of parliament, photo by Asteris Masouras

Workers rallying at Syntagma square, in front of parliament. Photo by Asteris Masouras (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Violent dispersal

As the rally approached Syntagma Square near midday, a couple dozen “hoodies”, mostly minors, crashed the rally, with protesters yelling for them to leave. The hoodies hurled rocks and petrol bombs at the police and at the Ministry of Finance, to which police responded as usual by forcefully dispersing everyone, as can be seen in this video:

police forces at syntagma square, photo taken by Asteris Masouras

Protesters march through police “pincer” and teargas at Syntagma square. Photo by Asteris Masouras (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

protesters with anti-nazi banners, photo by author

Protesters with anti-nazi banners fleeing from teargas. Photo by Maria Sidiropoulou (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The crackdown was heavy-handed, with extensive use of teargas and flashbangs, detentions, and physical violence that resulted in injuries to both protesters and police officers:

@RegularGrrrl: The Greek police officially stated that they would not use tear gas against Greek strikers today. They lied. #Greece #26sgr

A large part of downtown Athens was saturated with teargas for hours. CNBC reporter Julia Chatterley tweeted:

@JChatterleyCNBC: Impossible to be outside without gas mask – plenty of people still outside parliament though.. http://yfrog.com/esvssgtj

But even journalists had to face the quandary of either suffocating or facing arrest for wearing a gas mask:

@asteris: TR @ioann_A Credentialed journalist detained for bearing gas mask, released after union intervened #rbnews #Greece #26sgr

Preemptive arrests

Before the rally even started, riot police targeted popular assembly points in remote parts of Athens, and forcefully detained people who gathered to join the main body of the protest. Two days later, police published online the photos and identities of nine youth, aged 18 to 25, who participated – or were about to participate – in the demonstration, charging them with perpetrating violent acts, disturbing the public peace, as well as possessing explosives (petrol bombs) and surgical or gas masks for covering their faces. Some of them were clearly injured, with bruises and casts visible in the photos [el]:

@YiannisBab: Teenagers pre-emptively arrested, bruises and broken hands, that's the true face of our police. #free26sgrpeople http://goo.gl/UXlGf

Twitter users coined the #free26sgrpeople hashtag in solidarity with the detained youths, to denounce the injustice of their arrest, mistreatment and outing:

@Kapafix: Από τηλ. επικοινωνία για τους #free26sgrpeople μερικοί είναι χτυπημένοι, κάποιοι άσχημα ψυχολογικά και 3 μέρες χωρίς “απολογία”.

@Kapafix: After a phone call about #free26sgrpeople, I found out that some have been beaten, some are in an awful psychological condition, held for 3 days without permission to “plea”

@Jaquoutopie: Ελληνική δικαιοσύνη: Συλλήψεις ανηλίκων, χιλιόμετρα μακριά από το συλλαλητήριο πριν αυτό ξεκινήσει, προληπτικά. #free26sgrpeople

@Jaquoutopie: Greek justice: Arresting minors, kilometers away from the demonstration, before it even starts, preemptively. #free26sgrpeople

@Antidrasex: Μπράβο στους μπατσους που έβαλαν τις φωτό των παιδιών φόρα παρτίδα. Ξέρουμε ότι αυτα τα παιδιά δεν έκατσαν στον καναπέ τους #free26sgrpeople

@Antidrasex: Well done to the police for publishing the photos of those kids. We now know those youngsters didn't just sit on their couches #freesgrpeople

Publicly naming youth

Police claimed that publishing the identity of detained youths was a tactic to crowdsource information about any additional criminal activity. Netizens, on the other hand, asserted that publishing photos of protester without evidence of wrongdoing was a strategy to deter anyone intending to join a peaceful demonstration.

@potmos: Δημοσιοποιούνται επιλεκτικά στοιχεία κακοποιημένων πιτσιρικάδων *ακριβώς* για να δοθεί το μήνυμα «μη πατάτε σε διαδηλώσεις» #free26sgrpeople

@potmos: They're selectively outing abused kids *precisely* to put out the message “dont participate in demos” #free26sgrpeople

@aboubouka: οι φωτογραφίες των παιδιών στην ασφάλεια με κάνουν να ντρέπομαι που δεν έχω κάνει αρκετά για να συλληφθώ κι εγώ μαζί τους

@aboubouka: the photos of those kids in detention make me feel ashamed for not having done enough to get arrested along with them

@thesspirit: Στην επόμενη πορεία όλοι με χειρουργικές μάσκες. Δεν μπορούν να μας συλλάβουν όλους. #free26sgrpeople

@thesspirit: At the next demo everybody pack surgical masks. They can't arrest us all. #free26sgrpeople

@MavriMelani: Αν αυτο το κανετε για να φοβηθουμε ολοι οι υπολοιποι ειστε γελασμενοι. Αλλάξτε δουλεια. Πάλι στους δρόμους θα μας βρειτε #free26sgrpeople

@MavriMelani: If you did this to intimidate us, think again. Change your line of work. You'll find us in the streets again. #freesgrpeople

For more related tweets, visit the storify pages below, by Asteris Masouras who contributed to this report:

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

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