This is a translation of an article posted on the KAR website in Greek. A first hand account by journalist Manolis Kipreos who was beaten by the police and is now deaf because of the attack in 2011.
It was around 9 in the morning of June 15th when I arrived by train to Syntagma Square. I decided against exiting into the main square but by the Grande Bretagne hotel. Outside on the footpath of Vasilissis Sofias Avenue what I saw made me “freeze”.
An iron wall. A wall like what I’d seen by fully-armoured Israeli soldiers across from unarmed Palestinian civilians.
An immediate foreboding and inward terror if you wish, overtook me. This time they’re determined for everything I thought.That made me very careful and extra cautious. A “fire” could break at any moment.
Ordinary citizens who happened to be there were also puzzled by the “robocop” policemen as they had been cynically termed because of the specially reinforced uniforms they wore.
After a bit, at the bottom end of Syntagma square a barrage of chemicals, tear-gas and flash grenades suddenly began being catapulted. It was a mass attack without targetting. The public ran to hide in a panic. I was together with them on the corner of Mitropoleos and Filellinon Streets. With one hand transmitting on the mobile and the other holding the camera. Endless minutes passed, crying with distressed breathing. “You’ll endure this”, I courageously told myself. From inside the arcade that leads to the Ministry of Finance I saw hooded men holding planks coming from behind the MAT riot police. “I froze”.
And suddenly an elderly gentleman collapsed in front of me. I didn’t hesitate. Together with a few of my townsmen, we lifted and took him to the makeshift infirmary in the square. Seeing this I remembered the field hospitals I’d seen in Kosovo. An actual battle-field taking place in the capital of my country. In the Greek Democracy.
I continued. Now the attacks were taking place on Filellinon and Xenofontos Streets. Even more intense. Without the hooded men. MAT riot police were throwing flash grenades and chemicals indiscriminately and with no reason. The same scene. No mercy for anyone. The riot police clubbed whatever moved. A frenzy of rage and violence like a herd of sharks.
That made me go to the entrance of an arcade on Filellinon Street, to transmit and take pictures from there.
That was my fatal mistake.
One of the riot police squads had retreated and the leader asked me why I was taking pictures.
Knowing the process I said I’m a journalist and showed my Editors’ Union ID. Totally futile. That infuriated him.
After swearing at me he pointed at me with his finger at one of the men in his squad. I understood that somethinng was about to happen. But I believed that at the most I’d get “clubbed”.
No. In seconds the heavily-built MAT riot policeman threw a flash grenade in front of me. When the prescribed distance of detonation is at 50 metres, you can understand what happened to me with the explosion at 50 centimetres.
I felt my whole body hurl and fell inside the arcade and for seconds I thought I was dead.
A bit later I felt hands lift me and tried to see them through a blur. But I couldn’t hear them.
It was Giorgos, Takis, Maria, Konstantina, Nikos and Prodromos as I learned later. In a daze and drenched in litres of water, I tried to recover.
“You must leave and get to a hospital”, they gestured at me.
I realized I must to that immediately.With difficulty I started up Filellinon Street towards Zappeio and then to Evangelismos Hospital on foot.Together with tens of others, some with their children were trying to escape.
But there a second great surprise awaiting us. A squad of cowardly (allow me that expression) Delta policemen on motorbikes surrounded us just like the Indians against General Custer’s unit.
They started swearing and beating us. I was trying to protect a young lad around 15 years old and was consecutively beaten on my lower back and legs while they speeded towards us head-on and then the drivers would break suddenly a few metres in front of us.
It was a regular bullying and “legal” violence.
Without hearing, injured and writhing in pain I reached “Evangelismos” hospital. But it wasn’t on duty so I had to get to the “Red Cross” hospital. In my condition and there wasn’t any ambulance to transport me… I reached the Red Cross with great difficulty. The doctors and personnel of the eye, nose and throat clinic and the pathologists were all in the least excellent.
I spent ten nightmarish days while doctors tried to save the hearing in my left ear, led by Professor Vathilaki. Unfortunately the damage was too great. Total loss of hearing had occurred in both ears. The cochlea, the basic hearing organ had been completely damaged on both sides of my head.
I was deaf…
The MAT policemen had done their job. They left one of its citizens handicapped. And that was me.
The sensitive and democratic Minister of Citizen Protection Mr. C. Papoutsis didn’t even deign an apology. Nor of course did the Chief of Greek Police Mr. L. Oikonomou.
They must be thinking I’m just collateral damage.
Also in totalitarian regimes there are no “sorries” but a “serves you right”.
I reckon though that even our political system could be a Democracy.
Now I am called to live differently. A different life, without hearing, with a destroyed future and dreams from the MAT’s manic violence and God only knows what orders they had been given.
At least I had a chance to hear, “Bread-Education-Liberty” before I fell…
Manolis Kipreos July 6, 2011
Via KAR (in Greek)
[Photo: [Manolis Glezos, Greek left wing politician and writer, known especially for his participation in the World War II resistance, gets tear gas in the face]