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In Greece there is still nostalgia for the radical Left and the opposition to power through violent means

22 September 2011 / 13:09:01  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova 

In recent decades the old continent was shaken several times by violent and mass street protests. However, were the most recent of them: the street protests in Paris in the summer of 2005, in Athens in December 2008 and in the UK less than two months ago, were caused by similar factors? 

Answer to this question gave lecturer at Moscow and Cambridge Universities and international economic adviser, Dimitris Floudas at a meeting organized by the Institute of Diplomacy and International events in Athens. 

He focused his presentation about the events in Greece and Britain, by making a qualitative analysis of the street violence and destruction in both countries. 

"On the third day after the murder of 29-year-old drug dealer, as became clear later from police, riot transferred in other English cities. People were breaking, burning and destroying shops and homes. Even if we assume that initially behind all this hiding was a political message in the course of events it was lost. Similarities with what happened in Athens in December 2008 were impressive, but at the same time extremely superficial. In both cases, riots were prompted from a murder of a citizen by the police. The beginning was set very quickly, without the prior organization of parties or trade unions and without them having any demands." 

According to data presented by the lecturer the main causes of unrest in England were the doers of social exclusion, destruction of family values, reduction of social assistance to vulnerable groups, unemployment, the modus operandi of the gangs, criminal opportunism, ethical decline of the higher social strata and racial discrimination. 

"For Greece it is very difficult to say what were the exact reasons which caused riots in 2008. We can, however, list the following reasons: public disillusionment, corruption and decadence of the political system, irresponsible position of the Greek media, distrust in security forces, which is the leading ideology of the years of military dictatorship until today, the fact that thousands of Greek citizens are radical anarchists and the percentage is much higher than in other countries, and lastly good attitude and nostalgia for the radical Left, as well as the expression of disagreement with the government through violent means." 

The first criterion for comparison between the two "riots" in the analysis of Dimitris Floudas was the social status of participants and the places where they caused damage. "Unrest in Britain began in Tottenham, which is famous for being one of the most backward areas of the country where over 300 languages are spoken. It was not the first time that it became the scene of heavy clashes. Similar events happened in 1985 when a black man was killed by a policeman. Aside from the massive civil protests in 1990 against Margaret Thatcher, imposed by severe economic measures, all other cases of riots in England were of a purely racial character." 

According to the lecturer protests in Greece are quite different. Involved in them are mainly young people who are the so called anarchists or students - children of middle-class families. While protesters in British cities broke and destroyed shops and homes in disadvantaged neighborhoods, in December 2008 in Athens young people acted against the symbols of political, judicial and economic life of the city. "We cannot forget that one night President Karolos Papoulias stayed in a highly guarded building on the presidency, because there was information that anarchists had surrounded his house and were trying to enter it. They did not go to attack abandoned parts of the Athens center but launched an offensive from bohemian neighborhood Eksarhia, continued towards the aristocratic Kolonaki and reached buildings - symbols of power." 

Equally different is the reaction of the media in both countries. While British newspapers set riots as "shame and disgrace," created "hot" telephone lines, posted photos of the alleged participants and urged people to inform police if they knew who they are, in Greece, their reaction changed with the tide and was completely opposite. On the first day after the murder of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, several hours after which the riots started, the media printed headlines pointing at the guilt of the policeman, although until that moment there was only evidence against him. After the protests grew more dangerous, the media began to talk about that Athens is taken over by the rebellious youth who police was unable to control. At the same time, the back then Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis decided not to intervene personally and let the Minister of Interior Affairs to deal with the situation by himself. He in turn told the police to have only a defensive position to avoid a second death. The opposition began to make criticisms of the government and the back then PASOK leader George Papandreou wanted special elections to be held. "Unlike in Britain where the opposition leader David Miliband stood firmly on the side of the government and said he will fully support it in this crisis." 

Tags: Greece riots Britain Dimitris Floudas protests police
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