‘Rage Must Become A Collective Struggle’

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The coffin bearing the body of Dimitris Christoulas at the civil ceremony held in the central Athens cemetery
The coffin bearing the body of Dimitris Christoulas at the civil ceremony held in the central Athens cemetery

Angry protesters at the funeral of the Greek pensioner, who shot himself last Wednesday in Syntagma square, in front of the Vouli (Greek parliament), attacked two armed riot police and chased them away, giving one a beating.

About 1,000 workers and youth attended the civil funeral last Saturday in Athens; there was no religious ceremony, of 77-year-old pensioner Dimitris Christoulas.

Christoulas left a hand-written note blaming the ‘occupation government’ and called on young people to take up Kalashnikovs and ‘hang upside down the nation’s traitors.’

As the coffin was placed in the main cemetery square people applauded, raised their fists and shouted ‘Immortal’, ‘Down with the EE-IMF government of traitors’, ‘The right thing is to spray them with Kalashnikov bullets – this is how they (the government) will get to their senses,’ and many more.

Several people who knew Christoulas as a militant in the Syntagma square demonstrations, in the protest movements against high taxes and road tolls and from his neighbourhood, spoke at the funeral praising his total commitment to the struggle against the Greek government, which he considered as ‘a government of traitors.’

The president of the Greek Pharmacists’ Association spoke praising Christoulas high ideals.

A long message from Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis was read out.

Sofia Sakorafa, a well know parliamentary deputy, supporter of the Palestinians, who resigned from the PASOK social democrats in protest, spoke of Christoulas’ life’s aim which was ‘to change the world.’

In her oration Christoulas’ daughter, Emy a journalist who covered the struggle of the Palestinians in Gaza in 2007, called him ‘father and comrade’ and spoke of his insistence to Socialism despite the many setbacks to the fight Christoulas had suffered in his life.

Following the funeral people marched from the cemetery to Syntagma square where Christoulas shot himself. In front of the march were two banners carried by people from his neighbourhood stating, ‘To be human not just alive is the main thing’, and ‘Rage must become collective struggle.’

Marchers placed more messages and flowers at the tree in Syntagma square where Christoulas sacrificed himself.

At that point two armed policemen approached the site holding their truncheons, according to eye witnesses.

They were chased away by furious people who beat them up, one policeman left his jacket and belt behind containing handcuffs and a knife. The jacket was put up in the tree.

The President of the Greek Photoreporter’s Union, Marios Lolos, had an operation on his head last Friday evening following a blow by a policeman’s truncheon during last Thursday’s demonstrations in Syntagma square.

From his hospital bed last Saturday morning Lolos spoke to News Line saying that his was grateful to all those who showed their concern and support for him.

‘I get courage to face the future,’ he said.

Lolos described how he was injured. ‘I was standing at the corner in Syntagma square along with a few colleagues and journalists.

‘We were surrounded by riot police, there was no other person nearby. A police officer ordered us to leave and when we protested he said that was his orders from police HQ.

‘The riot police started pushing us away with their shields. I turned my back to them to walk away. At that point I felt the blow on my head and I lost consciousness for a few seconds.

‘I went to the hospital where they said that I must be operated upon. I was double shocked.’

That was not the first time that Lolos has been attacked and injured by riot police.

Lolos said that his Union have decided to take legal action against the Greek police and the Minister for Public Order.

The Athens Public Prosecutor has ordered an investigation into Lolos’ injury. The Minister for Public Order, highly criticised by the Union, said that the Greek police would also investigate the incident; once again police ‘investigating’ police.

The Greek government’s spokesperson, M. Kapsis, said that there will be a full investigation.

At the same time, Public Order Minister, Michalis Chrysochoides, has stated that the first ‘illegal immigrants’ reception camp’ would be set up at the end of the month in a former police officers’ training ground about ten miles north of Athens.

Chrysochoides said that ‘legislation will be introduced this week’ to set up what will be a concentration camp guarded by private security.

Local people have been waging demonstrations last week against Chrysochoides’ decision and clashes took place between school students and riot police last week.

Chrysochoides said that there were ‘health issues’ to be resolved concerning ‘illegal immigrants’.

The Greek government, through such actions and statements, are stirring up racial hatred and hysteria hoping to divert the anger of the Greek workers and youth as a general election is about to be declared for early May.

Opinion polls published in the capitalist press show that, despite an electoral system which favours the two main bourgeois political parties, they won’t be able to form a coalition government.

Last Friday the Finance Minister Filippos Sachinides said that whoever wins the general election must carry out yet another programme of savage cuts of some 15bn euros next June.

This will mean, not just barbaric cuts in health and education, but also tens of thousands of sackings in the public sector.

• A Greek newscaster was repeatedly pelted with yoghurt and eggs on live television last Friday evening.

Panagiotis Vourhas was interviewing a far right Golden Dawn party local politician on Epiros TV1 when he came face to face with protesters who had broken into the station.

Before he could move, he was splattered with a volley of yoghurt and eggs.

The 17 intruders shouted pro-immigration and anti-fascist slogans as they carried out their attack. They were angry at a spokesman of an openly neo-Nazi party being invited onto the private channel’s talk show.

• Reporters Without Borders on Saturday said it ‘roundly condemns’ a new wave of deliberate attacks on reporters and photographers in Athens and calls on the security forces to immediately identify those persons within their ranks who were responsible.

‘The respite was short,’ Reporters Without Borders said. ‘The riot police, who were criticised after the abuses of last summer and autumn, seem to have recovered their repressive instincts. The deliberate nature of the latest attacks leaves no doubt about this.

‘In particular, Marios Lolos, a very well-known media figure, was clearly targeted during a peaceful demonstration while part of a group of clearly identified journalists.

‘Did they want to punish him for his union activities? Are they trying to intimidate all the media as Greece’s social revolt continues to grow? This unacceptable behaviour must be fully investigated and the police officers responsible for assaulting journalists must be severely punished.

‘Lolos, who works as a photographer for the New China news agency and heads the Union of Greek Photojournalists (EFE), is currently hospitalised as a result of being beaten over the head by a member of the MAT riot police near Syntagma Square in Athens yesterday. He is in a serious condition and has undergone surgery to the skull.

‘All accounts concur that the situation was calm when Lolos was attacked and the photojournalists, who had come to cover a tribute to the pensioner who took his life the previous day, were not wearing helmets or gas-masks.

‘Makis Synodinos of the newspaper Naftemporiki and Star TV reporter Panagiotis Bousios were also among those injured during the deliberate charge by a MAT unit.

‘Journalists were also injured during clashes between demonstrators and riot police on the evening of 4 April. Rena Maniou of Antenna TV had to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance after receiving a baton blow to the back of her neck.

‘Dionysis Vythoulkas of To Vima and Giorgos Gerafentis of NET were among the other journalists who were roughed up by the MAT.

‘Anthee Carassava of Sky News and the Los Angeles Times was attacked by police while covering a military parade on Syntagma Square from the parliament on 25 March.

‘Although she had all the required accreditation and was moving away when told by the police, an officer on duty threatened to remove her by force and tried to grab the phone with which she had recorded his voice.

‘He was joined by three other police officers, who manhandled Carassava and dragged her into the courtyard of the parliament building. The mistreatment stopped only when a policewoman intervened.

‘As Carassava left, she tried to identify her assailants. They reacted by taking her to a police station and threatening her. As she tried to established the grounds on which they were holding her in a room in the police station, they tried to intimidate her by threatening to arrest her and “do what we want” with her.’