Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Our First Run-in With Fascists
So today was new for us for two reasons. It was our first Greek protest we attended and also our first experience with fascists. The protest was about elections and was commented on in a previous post so I wont go too much into the rationale. Joe didn't feel like going, so Maria and I ventured out by ourselves. What we learned was that it is actually illegal to refuse to vote. So what a lot of people do is they write ballots to dead people or "frodo baggins". But this protest was trying to get people to refuse alltogether. It was pretty cool.
The anarchists had an awesome newspaper and huge banners. One of the older anarchists who looked in his upper 50s spent 15-20 minutes spray-painting a slogan that said "boycott elections". It was amazing that someone could get away with spraypainting so blatantly in the middle of the day. The reason it was possible was because the police cannot venture onto university property and it was technically university property.
Another cool thing about the Anarchists there was that they were mostly normal looking. Yeah a lot of them wore black, but they didn't look like they were in the punk culture, or dressed really alternative. They also didn't have a bandanna around their necks. A lot of things about this were somewhat shocking and cool. There was a number of black motor cycle helmets that the group kept to the side for easy access. At first we thought that this was in case of police but after talking with some Greeks we learned that "these helmets are in case fasists attack". When asked if this happens a lot, the person replied "sometimes". He told us that the most extreme group, "Golden Dawn" has a lot of ex-special forces guys and is really tough. They often come with knives in addition to their clubs and he said "If you ever fight Golden Dawn, you wont ever be afraid of anything else ever again"
There is going to be another protest in the same place tomorrow and Maria and I plan on going.
After the protest, we headed back to Exarchia. We got some food, saw an eco art exhibit and were on our way back when we bumped into a massive amount of special police. The Greeks call them the "Mat", but they are essentially riot cops with sheilds and riot gear. They were on 2 major corners that we could see and there were cops on motor cycles one block away. We heard some loud Greek voice ranting about something so we figured we might as well check it out.
We wandered over to the direction of the voice only to find out that it was a huge gathering of Greek Fascists. They were all carrying giant greek flags on poles and some of them had long white clubs in their hands. There was also a big banner that we couldn't get close enough to check out.
Meanwhile, the man with the loudspeaker was yelling really loud about something in Greek and every other word out of his mouth was "Pakistani" this and "Pakistani" that. The gathering was mostly large dudes and they kept having these gutteral cheers. Then they all sang the Greek national anthem and repeated some sayings. I took a picture at a distance and when I went closer to take another picture, some dude with a club came over to me and pointed at my camera and started talking in Greek. I said "sorry dont speak Greek" and moved farther away from the rally. In all I would say that there was 150-200 of them. There was also a ton of cops 2 blocks away from them. What was interesting was that the cops werent facing the fascists, they were looking away from them in what appeared directed at a possible antifa response.
I dont know how strong Greek Antifa is, but you would have needed an army to get past the police and expect to be able to come out alive from any confrontation with the fascist group that was there. Shit is crazy here sometimes.