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Greece: Theater Critic Assaulted by Neo-Nazi and Religious Protesters

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

Religious groups and neo-nazis protested against gay-themed play Corpus Christi in Athens on 11 October, 2012. Deeming it blasphemous, they assaulted a theater critic and forced the cancellation of the performance. He was attending the premiere and tweeted his experience immediately afterwards. Netizens reacted in shocked outrage, demanding an end to the unchecked spiral of violence perpetrated by neo-nazis in recent months.

Orthdox Christian religious groups had previously attempted in vain to get the play banned in court:

@zairacat: απορρίφθηκε η αίτηση ασφαλιστικών μέτρων παραθρησκευτικών οργανώσεων, κατά της παράστασης corpus christi. κανονικά απόψε η πρεμιέρα.

@zairacat: Religious organizations had their request for interim measures against the Corpus Christi play thrown out. The premiere will go on tonight.

They called protests, in which members and MPs of the Golden Dawn party took part:

@Inflammatory_: Golden Dawn allegedly protesting in Gazi district of Athens over Corpus Christi, a theater show accused of blasphemy by Greek Church #rbnews

Religious groups protest the premiere of Terrence McNally's play “Corpus Christi” in Athens, 11 October 2012. Photo by Christos K, CC license

According to @stratosathens, theater critic Manolis tweeted a detailed report of his assault and battery by the protesters in full view of apathetic police officers:

@stratosathens: Journalist @manolis says he was beaten by GD members and at least 1GD MP. Police standing by, refused to intervene. #Greece

Several tweeps translated his testimony on the spot. Community news collective radiobubble chronicled attempts to censor Corpus Christi and compiled Manolis’ tweets, translated in English by Aliki:

At the entrance of the theatre, there were Golden Dawn and priests tearing down the show posters and stepping on them. I took out my mobile to take pictures for the blog. 5 Golden Dawners and a cop surrounded me. They ask ‘Are you a journalist?’ [..] They pull me aside, call me ‘faggot’ and ‘queer', pull my beard, spit in my face, hit me in the stomach.  Cops nearby. I shout “They're beating me, do something?” Reply: I've seen nothing, move along please. The cop's wearing 3 stars. They put a lit cigarette in my pocket. A woman standing near warns me, in front of the cop. He pretends he hasn't heard.  I start to get scared, move away from the entrance. They shout after me ‘Go away, you dirty faggot, go suck someone's cock!' I turn back to observe. A known Golden Dawn MP follows me, punches me twice in the face, knocks me down. Downed, I lose my glasses. The Golden Dawn MP kicks me. The police are exactly 2 steps away. Their backs are turned. Repeatedly, I shout to the cop “THEY”RE PUNCHING ME, DO SOMETHING!” Back still turned, he walks away. The rest of them shouting at me next to the police officer “Cry, you pussy, queen, little girl” We pass dozens of cops hanging out. I tell them I was beaten at theatre entrance. They ignore me. One blows me a sarcastic kiss.

ON THE WAY TO ITHACA summarized the events of the night, embedding videos that show a Golden Dawn MP launching threats and verbal abuse at the cast and crew of the play. The blogger mused:

I am beginning to wonder if this charade is going to become a weekly thing for as long as the play lasts… And to be honest this is getting a little too spooky for my taste

The incident marked an ominous turn in the outbreak of violence by Golden Dawn members, thus far aimed mostly at immigrants. It has led many to question the state of democracy in the land that gave birth to both it and theater:

@zoemavroudi: Tweeps point out attacks outside of gay-themed play in Athens tonight is 1st organized Golden Dawn targeting of Greeks instead of migrants.

@IrateGreek#Greece #rbnews LPC @KHatzinikolaou: Theatre owner: Last time a play had police guard was in Junta, don't want to believe it's Junta again.

Shocked and outraged netizens flooded Twitter with messages of support for the victim of the assault, denouncing the police for colluding with neo-nazis, and demanding action from the government, which they held responsible for promoting racism:

@CrippleHorse: Ι am Greek. In my country, the government, the police &the justice system have let loose Golden Dawn, a Nazi gang, free to commit any crime.

@northaura: we demand action MT @IrateGreek: Min Public Order @NikosDendias. Torture. Human shields. Neo-nazi MPs running amok.All on your watch. #Greece

Many pointed out that neo-nazi violence, rampant against immigrants for more than a year, especially since Golden Dawn entered parliament, is now targeting other groups as well:

@nikoxy: Το σόου των νεοναζί στο θέατρο Χυτήριο αποτελεί πρελούδιο για τη μετα-ρατσιστική βία Χρ Αυγής. Οχι μόνο εναντίον ξένων.

@nikoxy: The neo-nazi show at Chytirio theater is a prelude to Golden Dawn's post-racist violence. Not just against foreigners.

@mi_kitas: Αρχικά ήταν οι μετανάστες, μετά ήταν οι αλλόθρησκοι, μετά ήταν οι αριστεροί και οι ομοφυλόφιλοι. Περιμένεις την σειρά σου;#xytirionow

@mi_kitas: First it was immigrants, then non-Christians, then leftists and homosexuals. Are you waiting your turn? #xytirionow

@Kat_McKork: Ας αφήσουμε αυτά τα “πρώτα οι μετανάστες, μετά οι ομοφυλόφιλοι, μετά εσύ” δεν είναι αυτός ο λόγος, το “μετά εγώ”. Δεν πρέπει να είναι. Όχι.

@Kat_McKork: Stop saying “first immigrants, then homosexuals, then you”, “then you” isn't the reason [to react]. It shouldn't be. No.

Another theatergoer during the same night who was met with hate and derision by protesters chronicled her attempts to reason with them in her blog, Invisible Ink:

My efforts, and the Atheist Union t-shirt I was wearing, attracted the attention of protesters who started to comment:

“What does she want? To see the play?”
“She's a lesbian and wants to see the fags?”
“Look at her t-shirt! Atheist Union!”
“She's an atheist!” [..]

“You want to see the faggots? They're faggots! Perverts!”
“They swear against our Christ, our Virgin Mary!”
“How do you know? Have you seen it?”
“No, but so they told me. They told me it swears against our Christ. It must be banned!” [..]

“Hey, don’t waste your time on her, she’s not worth it.  She’s trash.”
“Get out of here, Albanian!”
“I'm Greek.”
“Greek? True Greeks don't do such things! You're Albanian!” [..]

“Listen here, bitch, we are Greek Christian fascists! 90% of Greeks are Christian fascists, understand?  As a fascist, i have the right to tell you to get out of here.”
“As a fascist, you have the strength, but not the right.”

The combined effect of the relentless debt crisis and austerity, the mounting police and neo-nazi violence with impunity have left many Greek netizens aghast, forlorn of hope and feeling forced to leave the country. But some vow to persevere, in spite of it all:

@thesspirit: Πιστεύω στους θεσμούς κ τον άνθρωπο. Πιστεύω ότι η λύση μπορεί να είναι μόνο πολιτική κ ότι η βία γεννάει βία. Αλλά σήμερα πιστεύω λιγότερο.

@thesspirit: I believe in institutions and in humans. I believe the solution can only be political, and that violence begets violence. But tonight, my belief is lessened.

@tinaletina#Greece 2012, Nazi & state violence: some will give up, some will leave, some of us will stay n defend our dignity and lives. Fighting back.

Check out more curated tweets and links on this story by the author on Storify.

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

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