In this update, our correspondents in Greece describe the state of the anarchist movement following the easing of the lockdown and review the court cases that remain from the last year of struggle.
The transition out of the lockdown is surreal. Are we refreshed, relieved, or simply desensitized? We continue to face the same uncertainty that COVID-19 has imposed on humanity for the past year and a half.
Some measures remain in place, but the general feeling is that summer is here and we should cherish it while it lasts. Despite initial delays, the vaccine rollout is resolving itself as would be expected in the first-world European Union. In this situation, the Greek administration has abruptly opened everything despite consistently high infection rates, hospitalization numbers, and looming variants.
While some may be relieved that they no longer need permission from the state to leave home and that the curfew is now later and barely enforced, it’s hard not to feel that the past year of our lives has been used up in an authoritarian experiment having more to do with political consolidation then public health.
On May 14, a day when over two thousand cases of COVID-19 were reported—triple the caseload of early January when lockdown was at its harshest—the authorities lifted the requirement to provide the state with a text message or written form to go outside. There was no beating around the bush: the lockdown ended so Greece could open up for tourist season. Last year, the tourist season also determined when Greece opened up; this likely was one of the most significant contributors to bringing more cases into the country. The authorities here have employed every opportunity to push policy and assert their power, especially when we were at our most vulnerable. Now it should be clear to all that it is not the health of the vulnerable that determines when a pandemic is considered over, but the demands of the business elite in the face of a persistent economic crisis.
We have said again and again that a pandemic response that channels hospital and medical funding to the police and military is not aimed at protecting those who might fall victim to the virus, but rather at preserving the status quo at all costs, heedless of the consequences.
None of this is surprising. It always feels degrading to watch AirBnB backpackers gazing at graffiti in Exarchia, or German and American tourists flocking to all the “best Greek restaurants” (all of which, mysteriously, are concentrated around the Acropolis), and to be told that it’s fortunate they are here, since otherwise we would still have to worry about being caught outside after curfew and receiving a fine of 300 euros—half the median Greek salary.
So there is an element of relief, but we cannot forget the tragedies and repression we’ve reported on throughout the lockdown. The most egregious cases have gone unrecorded, in prisons and refugee camps.
Some squats evicted during lockdown have been re-occupied since the “re-opening,” such as Rosa Nera in Chania, Crete. The squat Empros in Pssirri, Athens, an autonomous theater, was briefly evicted but immediately re-occupied. A new squat has also opened in the center of Athens, despite the New Democracy pledge to eradicate them all by December 2020. “We dont die, we just multiply,” as the saying goes.
In June 2021, a walking tour through the Athenian neighborhood of Exarchia sponsored by the European Union and the city government was cancelled due to fear of anti-gentrification riots. We are meeting each other once again in the squares and in the streets with a little less weight on our shoulders.
Clashes broke out recently on Agrafa Mountain to block the construction of wind turbines that will destroy vital habitats; no one was sleeping during lockdown, only navigating restraints. Mutual aid efforts supporting refugees and prisoners remain indispensable. We all are re-discovering life after lockdown in our own ways. Isolation, defeat, and the general feeling of disempowerment that loomed throughout the lockdown had long-term effects on individuals and on the movement as a whole. For those who already struggled with mental illness, the last months were not helpful, to say the least.
This moment of relief won’t last. We are waking up to a changed Greece. The government has just passed a new anti-union and anti-labor bill to emulate the market in the United States, stripping workers of rights. Many policies and precedents introduced under the guise of the lockdown remain in place.
Even after the lockdown, we will never forget the things we have seen and experienced. We think of the woman ticketed for leaving a flower to remember the students murdered by the Junta at the polytechnic on November 17, 1973. We remember the flowers that riot police stole from an elderly woman and then smashed just meters away from the memorial for Alexandros Grigoropoulos on December 6. We bear in mind the reign of systematic terror that prisoners, refugees, and immigrants endured throughout the lockdown as police seized the opportunity to detain and punish whomever they did not welcome to Greece. We remember the bulldozers that hurried to the mountains and forests to destroy and develop them when the lockdown and the virus itself rendered resistance more difficult. We remember how the police beat anyone who dared to take to the streets—the war waged on Nea Smirni after the neighborhood stood up to police assaults—the girl in Nea Smirni who took on the police herself to courageously protect her friend, only to face threats of sexual assault and torture for hours following her interrogation. We are haunted by violent episodes in which the police hunted us without fear of judicial punishment, while we risked everything to prevent the lockdown from destroying everything we love.
We remember the games that the authorities played with the life of Dimitris Koufontinas, and the symbolism that they sought to achieve in their response to his struggle. We remember how the homeless were fined, the parties of the rich, the scandals prioritized to distract us, the inconsistencies that would have been absurd if they weren’t so degrading. We remember the stranded migrant workers who still continue to struggle for their pay, the comrades who were kidnapped by police, the unprecedented punishments framed as a new era of “law and order.” We remember the million-euro Christmas lights no one could see because of the curfew. And while the lockdown is all but lifted now, we can’t help but recall the temporary re-openings for Christmas shopping and Easter.
The lockdown also exacerbated rampant domestic violence and assaults on woman, excused by the apologists of the church and its followers. We are experiencing an interruption of patriarchal narratives in this country: a man who murdered his wife and dog cried on television that “immigrants” broke into his house, only for it to emerge afterwards that he was the perpetrator. All the same, he has received the benefit of the doubt from the orthodox state and its press.
Shortly after this domestic femicide, a woman who took on a cleaning job was kidnapped, locked inside a house, and repeatedly raped. The police would not enter the building—it wasn’t a priority for them compared to raiding squats—so the man was able to flee. Afterwards, police confronted demonstrations about this incident and patriarchy as a whole. All the same, people are rushing to the streets, and the violence that plagued households during lockdown will not be accepted.
We anticipate another failed tourist season. We anticipate that Greece will continue to hide its economic crisis by means of European Union funding. We anticipate the middle class receiving handouts at the expense of those deemed undesirable. We anticipate harsher repression attending the New Democracy campaign to “modernize” Greece.
Despite all these challenges, our movements remain strong. Solidarity actions supporting political prisoners and struggles here and elsewhere around the world still occur in the night and manifest in graffiti and banners across the country. Clandestine actions continue—as do demonstrations, despite their being essentially criminalized. Despite the rescinding of the university asylum policy, some universities are once again being used to host events, skill shares, and parties to fund projects and prisoners. We are here. We are coming out dazed, but we are very much here.
In this report, we will focus on the cases of some of the many prisoners and defendants who are in no position to share in the relief of the end of the lockdown.
Revolutionary Solidarity: Confronting a New Regime of Repression
The bureaucrats who run the Greek prison system are intent on emulating the worst of America’s prison-industrial complex. Dozens upon dozens of people are facing fines and trials for courageously taking action during this last lockdown despite the state’s efforts to intimidate them. Many court cases drag on for years or continue to be postponed due to COVID-19; regardless of whether they are ever convicted, the defendants endure restrictive measures that seriously affect their lives. As in the Biden administration’s response to the Capitol riots in January, the Greek state is using last year’s verdict against Golden Dawn to maintain a façade of “judicial fairness,” enabling them to clamp down on anarchists, immigrants, and others the state deems undesirable. They hope to introduce a more draconian regime of repression behind the rhetoric of neoliberal modernity.
Nonetheless, people continue to act in solidarity with immigrants and refugees and to organize noise demonstrations outside prisons. We will not be deterred.
While some of the fundraising drives described here have been completed, an urgent need for funds remains. Specifically, Tameio, which provides support to long-term prisoners, needs funds continuously, especially following the lockdown and the lifting of the university asylum policy.
The Sentencing of Vangelis Stathopoulos
“Solidarity is judged on my person with the heaviest accusations, because I helped an injured comrade. My prosecution and trial are based solely on political criteria, on the attitude of dignity and solidarity that I have consistently followed throughout my life. I have nothing to dispose of but my own life; I have nothing to defend despite the constant struggle against the murderous rage of the state and capital! If my practical solidarity is the crime for which I am convicted and imprisoned, I declare myself unrepentant!”
In October 2019, there was an attempt to expropriate a state-owned gambling facility. The anarchist fugitive Dimitris Chatzivasileiadis has claimed responsibility for this. Due to a tragic mistake during the attempt, a gun used in the robbery went off, and Chatzivasileiadis shot himself, according to his own account. Bleeding profusely and unable to go to a hospital, he turned to a long-lost friend who is now accused of helping him. The authorities carried out a campaign of “anti-terror” raids, and ultimately took this friend, Vangelis Stathopolous, into custody. He was held in pre-trial detention for over a year and a half.
On account of these accusations, and of Stathopolous being a long-term anarchist known to the authorities, Stathopolous was sentenced in April to 19 years without the possibility of suspension. Chatzivasileiadis has been sentenced to sixteen years in absentia, and a third individual to ten years. While in the United States, “aiding and abetting” is defined broadly and judicial punishment has no bounds—especially in so called “anti-terror” cases—Greece historically has not inflicted punishments comparable to those in the United States.1 Spearheaded by the current administration, the Greek far right aim to replicate that judicial system here, especially when it comes to targeting their opponents.
There is essentially no evidence that Stathopolous participated in the attempted expropriation beyond the fact that he helped his friend to deal with the ensuing medical emergency. He is being sentenced under the anti-terror law for allegedly being involved in the organization “Revolutionary Self-Defense,” a group that has been defunct for years.
Since the verdict, people have organized a passionate campaign of solidarity with Vangelis Stathopolous, defying the opportunistic state COVID-19 lockdown measures. Graffiti and banner campaigns have occurred across the country. Massive fundraising efforts have taken place; in one case, people took over a university campus to hold an event supporting him, despite the fact that the suspension of the university asylum policy makes this especially risky. A group signing themselves “Flame Diffusion Gang” took responsibility for burning a tax office near the site where the “anti-terror” raids took place. People are collecting donations to support Stathopolous via this firefund.
The Torture of Giannis Dimitrakis and the Legacy of Domokos Prison
On May 24, 2021, in the notorious Domokos prison, a prison Mafia gang attacked anarchist fighter Giannis Dimitrakis for refusing to submit to their authority. He survived this assault on his life, but it left him in critical condition. Nonetheless, Dimitrakis continues to refuse to cooperate with this prison gang and remains strong.
Domokos is the same prison that holds Dimitris Koufontinas following his hunger strike. At the Korydallos prison in Athens, anarchists have historically received more respect than in other prisons, diminishing the risk of gang attacks; it is also easier for their families to visit them there, as Athens is more accessible. However, as the authorities intentionally transfer more anarchist and revolutionary political prisoners across the country, Korydallos is also becoming less safe, as the prison mafias gain more power via informal collaboration with the state.
Domokos prison is the highest-security prison in Greece; as its location is difficult to access, being transferred there makes visitation more difficult for prisoners’ families and friends. Above all, the state is intent on facilitating violence against anarchists and political prisoners by prison gangs, many of which have fascist leanings, cooperative relationships with the guards, and little sympathy for the sort of causes a political prisoner would be incarcerated for. Some comparisons can be drawn to the case of Eric King in the United States, in that King’s transfer was a deliberate attempt to isolate him from supporters and tear up what roots he had been able to put down in prison, exposing him to attacks from fascists and guards. This falls in line with the strategy of Sofia Nikolaou, the “general secretary of anti-crime policy” who regulates prisons.
The Case of the Alleged “Comrades”
We have noted this case in prior reports: four people were arrested on conspiracy charges based on the 187a anti-terrorist law. The state, claiming that these four individuals are part of a terrorist organization known as “comrades,” has attempted to charge them with every political action that has ever been claimed with a communiqué signed “comrades”—54 actions in all. Of course, a wide range of people have claimed clandestine actions under the name “comrades” for years and years. Though this case seems unlikely to result in a conviction, it’s obvious that the state is using this conspiracy charge to harass and financially drain people that they consider to be a political threat.
The defendants were arrested in an anti-terror operation conducted on March 8 and 9, 2020. After being detained for a week, they were released under harsh conditions. Despite neither having gone to trial nor being accused of specific crimes, the four defendants have to pay exorbitant legal fees and report their whereabouts to the police every ten days; they are forbidden to associate with each other or with “political people,” to leave the country, and to enter the neighborhood of Exarchia or participate in any “political events.” Their bank accounts are blocked, as well.
One of the four has been forced to return to his hometown despite living in Athens for years. His permit to drive a motorcycle has also been rescinded. The intention of the authorities is clearly to use conspiracy charges and the anti-terror law to terrorize people, regardless of evidence or conviction.
You can read more about their case and how to support them here.
Eight Facing Felony Charges
Eight people currently face felony charges for an action against the dean of the economics school, who was responsible for evicting a local social center and the squat Vancouver. A campaign to support the humiliated dean mobilized New Democracy supporters who were shocked to see a high-ranking professional humiliated by being compelled to wear a sign that said “solidarity to the squats.” They offered a reward of a hundred thousand euros for information on who might be responsible—a considerable sum, especially in the midst of an economic crisis.
The police rounded up people on the basis of little evidence apart from claims that the arrestees have connections to the movement. The defendants appear to have been chosen on the basis of association and reputation, another precedent in the fabrication of “conspiracy” or “criminal organization.” This case is ongoing; you can read more about the defendants and how to support them here.
For Owning a Tracksuit
Various individuals face charges from the uprising that took place against police brutality in March in the neighborhood of Nea Smirni in Athens, explored in detail here. The police responded by beating and arresting individuals at random in the neighborhood, including a woman that they also tortured and threatened with rape. Officers conducted an anti-terror operation targeting a social center to capture one individual, despite lacking evidence.
One person with scarcely any connection to the anarchist movement remains in prison to this day over this incident, despite evidence contradicting the case against him. He is an Iraqi-born Greek citizen known as “The Indian” in the hooligan scene and mainstream press, a hooligan of the Olympiacos football club. Police raided his home and attempted to charge him on the basis of the testimony of an estranged relative who has a feud with him. Police are also claiming his possession of a track suit as evidence—when every hooligan all the world over owns a track suit. Xenophobic corporate press have demonized him for being born in Iraq.
An exculpatory video has surfaced showing the defendant playing basketball at the time that the riot was taking place. However, the judicial council has claimed that this video of him elsewhere at the time of the alleged crime is not enough; consequently, the authorities continue to hold him in pretrial detention. We are unfamiliar with the defendant’s views on the events that took place and with his politics, if he has any. His case highlights the way that police and judges in Greece can target people without proper judicial proceedings, especially when the case involves an attack against one of their own.
The Case against Giannis Michailidis, Konstantina Athanasopoulou, and Dimitra Valavani
Giannis Michailidis, who escaped from prison, was captured along with two more people, Konstantina Athanasopoulou and Dimitra Valavani. Police claim to have found weapons and fake documents in the vehicle with him. Michailidis claims full responsibility for any crimes being prosecuted in the case against his two co-defendants. Athanasopoulou and Valavani, the two women allegedly present at the time of his recapture, are facing conspiracy and anti-terror charges.
Dimitra Valavani has given multiple statements detailing assault by police forces, specifically in the matter of providing her DNA. While Michailidis claims full responsibility for the weapons that the police found and his own escape from prison, the state is once again seeking to fabricate a “criminal organization.” Michailidis and his co-defendants refuse to cooperate. They have repeatedly demonstrated remarkable strength, under the circumstances, conducting a hunger strike with Dimitris Koufontinas.
Postponed repeatedly, the first stage of the trial finally took place in June. The judicial proceedings will likely stretch out over the coming months.
Same Voice, Different Name
Solidarity is indispensable. Though we face unprecedented escalation, we will prevail—as the saying goes, “Our solidarity is stronger than any prison cell.”
This update is part of a long-term effort to foster international awareness of and solidarity with the anarchist movement in Greece. The authors have provided consistent updates here over the past few years. However, this report is no longer associated with the Bad News Report or Radio Fragmata Greece. Both projects continue, however, and we encourage you to follow them for updates on movements in Greece and abroad.
We also recommend athens.indymedia.org. The twitter @exiledarizona, Abolition Media Worldwide, and Enough is Enough 14 also consistently post in English about events in Greece. Act for Freedom Now recently had its servers stolen by the Dutch government but is back online.
In the United States, political prisoners from the 1960s and ’70s are still serving sentences. In some cases, political prisoners are held in solitary confinement for decades and decades. ↩