Text by Charalampos Kydonakis
After the fall of the military dictatorship in Greece in 1974 Greek people won once more their right for freedom of speech and demonstration.
During the 1973 riots, students and other people protested against the military junta for democratic rights. The night of the 17th of November ended with an invasion of a tank and army inside the Polytechnic University of Athens which was occupied by the students. As a result about 20-25 (the exact number is still not precisely known) people were killed and a lot wounded, arrested and tortured within the coming days at the police department.
After 1974, the 17th of November became a symbol of fight for freedom and social justice. Every year this day in the major Greek cities and mainly in Athens demonstrations take place and thousands of people protest for contemporary social issues. Often enough these demonstrations end up in disaster and fight with the police. A lot of other demonstrations, especially in general strike days, have the same ending.
The fight between the riot policemen and the anti-authoritarians usually gets tough. The riot police uses big quantity of teargas to break and stop the protestants and the atmosphere becomes intolerable. A scenery of “molotov” bombs and stones flying, flames burning and blind police violence spreading everywhere around against every protestant often covers the demonstrations.
Very often the disasters etc during the demonstrations are provoked by the para-state ,so that everything in the centre of the city becomes chaotic and people are too scared to demonstrate after watching this chaos in the TV; which has nothing to do with the numerous other peaceful demonstration. It’s common during demonstrations to see a minority of hooligans breaking and burning banks, stores, etc, and the policemen near them look at them peacefully like nothing is happening and doing nothing. The TV afterwards usually shows a number of peaceful protestants and their requests only for some seconds towards the end of the reportage and for the rest of the time it focuses mainly on the disorder and the fight between the police and the anti-authoritarians, true or fake ones, who knows…
The result is that people who watch TV start to believe that if they go to the protest, it’s sure that they will be attacked by teargas ,they will be injured, arrested, etc. So a “non participating” conscience starts to emerge all these years in citizens who may believe that the cause of protesting is right, but are afraid to go out on the streets to shout for it. And this is the final aim of authority: to minimize any voice of opposition. To make everyone believe that whoever participates in a demonstration is a terrorist and is responsible for what will happen to him if he goes there to protest. The media try to make people believe that the thousands of protestants who march and shout peacefully go there to destroy the city and cause disorder.
The last years especially after the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos and the economic disaster of the country, the demonstrations have become more and more massive.
The position of photographers is really difficult inside all these conditions. The anti-authoritarians consider photographers and journalists as assistants of the police. Policemen don’t want them around so that their violent action never gets recorded and presented afterwards. It’s not unusual to see photographers attacked by both sides and cameras to be broken.
Mobile phone cameras that are easier to shoot with under these conditions have revealed a lot of police violence that otherwise authority would never talk about.
Greek photographer Yannis Kafkas was beaten on 11 May, a general strike day, by the riot police during a demonstration in Athens. He got in coma in the hospital, since then the situation of his health has been critical and he is mechanically supported. People who were in front of the incident talk of blind police violence during the demonstration, Yannis got hit twice by metallic object on the head and multiple times on his body.
This video shows what happened there that day. (It’s not Yannis in this video, but it’s taken from the same demonstration)
Yannis is a member of HCSP. His photos and thoughts, written down on his blog, show a sensitive and active citizen, a photographer with his eyes opened and focused on the urban and human theatre around him, a man of no compromise with the political and social decadence.
© Yannis Kafka – 5 preceding images
The TV news talked about this incident for two days. Then they needed something else to mention so that all this would get forgotten. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of the IMF who was arrested in the USA for violation attempt gave the media what they needed to turn the page to a subject that wasn’t their favourite to present.
Let’s hope Yannis gets well soon and that he will be the last person hit by blind police violence.