Last night, solidarity demonstrations were held the length and breadth of Greece in reaction to the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, the rapper, Killah-P. The more details that come out about this murder the more shocking it is, with his friends asserting that this was no random attack, but a planned hit. These gatherings were brutally repressed and indeed it is lucky that more deaths did not result from the authorities wanton disregard for the wellbeing of its citizens.
By the time I arrived, late as ever, to the gathering in Pireas, starting near the spot where Fyssas was killed, it wasn’t clear whether the demonstration had already started or was still assembling. People were still arriving in droves, and in both directions a sea of people were slowly meandering up the hill. Estimating numbers is largely impossible with so many people but certainly no less than fifteen thousand or so people were gathered in this small satellite town just outside Athens. It was possibly the most diverse gathering that I had seen in Greece. Women were well represented and there were a number of older people and disabled people also present.
Within half an hour it became clear that it had indeed already started, as our noses started twitching and eyes starting to water. From both directions people came running with streaming eyes and struggling to breathe. We could vaguely hear the teargas and flashbombs being thrown, but the direction was unclear. Trying to find comrades we moved up towards the front of the demonstration, as many people were retreating at that point as were moving forwards, but eventually the teargas overcame us and we could go no further. There were still several thousand hardier souls ahead but the gathering itself seemed to have descended into confusion as people set bins alight to try to counteract the effects of the gas.
The street which the gathering assembled on was a large but pretty suburban street. Multinational retail stores haven’t made many inroads into Greece, and the street sported local individual shops. Few had the steel shutters or grails that would be immediately pulled down should a demonstration in central Athens be announced. In between these shops however, were the symbols of international capitalism – the banks, the mobile phone companies and the pawn shops. These didnt last long, each one was smashed in turn, and a bank set alight, while the local shops with their fragile glass and inadequate protection against anyone that would do them harm were left well alone.
Right in the middle was the place where Fyssas was murdered. People stood around, laying the flowers that they had brought with them and talking quietly in the middle of the chaos. Whether the tears were for Fyssas himself, the condition that Greece had descended into, where a young man can be murdered by fascists on a busy main street while the police looked on, or a product of the teargas still heavy in the air is anyone’s guess – probably a mix of all three.
The people were fewer now, riot police lined the top and bottom of the street. I later found out that a large proportion of the demonstration had moved on to the neighbouring suburb of Nicia where the local Golden Dawn office was. This remember is the party which only last week, the Greek mainstream media was suggesting that New Democracy co-operated with in “the interests of the country”. Golden Dawn at first denied that murderer was a member, and apparently his first act after the murder was to phone his wife to get rid of his party membership card which was found in the rubbish at his home, while various photos have now emerged of the murderer wearing the Golden Dawn uniform and participating in the company of others.
Still a few thousand remained on the street, then without warning we heard shouts coming from the bottom, and people running past, we ran with others into a small cafe, expecting the customary charge of riot police with their batons drawn beating whoever they could nab accompanied by the acrid gas. Instead we saw a patrol of DIAS motorcycle police, running three abreast up at speed, I would estimate around 50 mph, careering up the road which only a few moments earlier had been filled with scattered groups of people. It is remarkably lucky that no-one was hit as they recklessly charged towards the crowd causing people to jump out of the way and cram onto the overflowing pavement.
As the teargas cleared, we moved back up the street to find a gathering of several hundred people assembled at the top. The police had charged a group of people and some of the residents had given them asylum in their apartment block and were refusing the police entry. Scores of riot police were shoving people back from the scene, as the refugees inside phoned people urging them to contact lawyers. Eventually lawyers and a public prosecutor was brought to the scene to negotiate. After around an hour one of the lawyers emerged and, to jeers, announced that agreement had been reached and that they would all be taken to the police station for “identity checks”. Around 30 people were brought out of the building, all young, many of them young women, one clutching his skateboard. These were the kind of dangerous terrorists that required 60 or so full tooled up riot police to bring to justice.
As soon as the standoff was over and the police walked off down the road, immediately around 10 motorbikes zoomed up the road. In a re-run of the DIAS police charge, they aimed straight for the crowd of protesters. All were dressed in ordinary streetwear, some wearing ski-masks. I have little doubt that this was the group of Golden Dawn and/or plain clothes police officers (is there a difference?) that can be clearly seen throwing rocks at people who have gathered, then retreating behind police lines when people retaliated.
On arrival back home, I learnt that I had thankfully missed most of the violence. One young man had lost an eye as police fired teargas canisters directly at people’s faces and bodies, and 34 people had been treated for headwounds in one hospital alone. Plastic bullets had also been used against those who had gathered.
There is no pretense here. There are no kind and sympathetic words from leading politicians instead Samaras used a speech about the death of Killah-P to justify the austerity agenda. There are no de-escalation tactics from the police, understanding that people are angry and upset that they would have stood by and watch a man be murdered, instead there is just brutal repression and contempt.