It all started last Monday, April 27th, when Giorgos Kalaitzidis, a well-known member of the media-notorious anarchist group Rouvikonas, posted a video that had been sent to him on facebook featuring a police brutality incident against a motorcyclist in the centre of Athens. The video can be seen here.
Police brutality in Greece is surprisingly normalized for a country that is nominally supposed to be part of the so-called “First World” for at least half a century. But there was something in this case that generated a lot of persistent attention to what might have otherwise been considered almost banal.
According to the original post by Kalaitzidis, the motorcycle police had crossed the red light, nearly hitting a civilian motorcyclist, while they were escorting some kind of State VIP (possibly a minister, Kalaitzidis hypothesized) in a car with dark windows. This happened according to witness testimony, and before the video in question starts.
The cops proceeded to push the civilian off his bike and then started beating, shouting and swearing at him. They are also seen bullying away a pedestrian that came near to protest about the violence.
The video quickly went viral in Greece and, as of today, has nearly 7 thousand shares. This is quite a lot for Greek social media standards.
As the mainstream internet media started reproducing it the plot thickened. The left-wing, daily newspaper Avgi published an article claiming that the person in the VIP car was Grigoris Dimitriadis, head of the PM Bureau, and a nephew of the Greek right-wing PM, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Around the same time, Giorgos Ragousis, a Syriza MP and shadow minister of Citizens Protection (CP, aka the police), picked the whole thing up, and issued an official question in the parliament to the acting Minister of CP, demanding answers on why the government is trying to conceal anything relating to the incident and what is the identity of the person in the car.
In a rather unprecedented move, the official reply of CP Minister Mihalis Chrisochoidis begins by naming Giorgos Kalaitzidis as the source of the video, framing him as a “leading cadre” of Rouvikonas. He then goes on call out Ragousis for treating Rouvikonas as a reliable source, thus trying to delegitimize the whole case on this basis, and deflect attention from the video itself -which is already proof of police brutality- and the very embarrassing questions that it raises, allegedly implicating a relative of the Prime Minister, who isn’t really supposed to have a police escort in the first place. (He is not an elected official, just another ludicrous case of nepotism, and former staffers of his position just got a driver)
In his response, Ragousis began by saying that this is “One step closer to an Orban type democracy” and ended with a remark that exemplifies both the hilarity of Greek mainstream politics and the unusual power and significance that anarchists wield in Greece:
“As for the cheap nonsense about Rouvikonas, it is Messrs Mitsotakis and Chrisochoidis themselves that can prove it false. Simply because they have “finished” Rouvikonas since the 8th of July 2019*, as they had promised in their election campaign”.
It is not the first time that Kalaitzidis has been targeted by the authorities as a “leader” or “leading cadro” of Rouvikonas despite the obvious oxymoron.
Apart from the age-old anti-anarchist rhetoric of this narrative, there is a repressive tactic at play here. Once any comrade is framed and targeted as a “leader”, this can be utilized for prosecution purposes.
But in this case, the main aim is to undermine the credibility of anarchists in the eyes of the public and normalize the idea that anything coming from them should be discredited, even if it is a video.
In response to that, the brand new anarchist news outlet alerta.gr published an article titled “Will you believe Chrisochoidis or your own eyes?” where it quotes Kalaitzidis response to the minister’s press release, where, among other things, he claims he has a whole stock of this kind of videos because people send it to them all the time.
To follow up on that assertion, Spyros Dapergolas, another prominent member of Rouvikonas with a large social media following, made a call-out on Twitter for people to send them this kind of material.
The New Democracy government made anti-anarchist rhetoric a very vocal part of its election campaign, and tried to wage war against the anarchists and their infrastructure -squats in particular- and managed to land some significant blows, without ever though, reaching even close to the completion of their proclaimed anti-anarchist agenda, and halted after being met with bitter resistance, especially in the occasion of the Koukaki evictions.
This war has de-escalated since a few months, but now that everyone is expecting a massive economic crisis that will inevitably create new waves of social discontent and consequent strife, the growing reach of anarchist influence to the broader public seems more menacing than ever to the State. If predictions are proven right, the next winter is likely to be very rough in Greece, but also potentially very interesting.
* The right-wing New Democracy party won the parliamentary elections in Greece on 7th July 2019. “Finishing Rouvikonas” was one of their electoral promises.
Alexis Daloumis is a guerilla filmmaker based in Athens.