The Guardian • Issue #1954

“Cops out of our neighbourhood”

Greece protests police brutality

In Greece, mass protests have broken out following the release of video footage of a man being beaten with an iron baton by a police officer and held down by two others for breaking lockdown restrictions. On the 9th of March, what initially started as a peaceful demonstration against police brutality was met with the very same heavy-handed approach that people were there to protest in the first place.

Around 5000 people took to the streets in the historically calm suburb of Nea Smyrni in Athens. They were met with tear gas and water cannons. The protestors responded with molotov cocktails, rocks, and setting fire to rubbish bins. This round of protests follows months of student protests against the stationing of police officers at universities and a law restricting the right to protest that was passed in July 2020. Former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of the left-wing Syriza party said, “The country has a government that has totally lost control of the pandemic, and the only thing it knows how to do, according to the plan, is to use a heavy hand.”

In predictable bourgeois fashion, the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis placed the blame for the violence on the protestors and appealed for peace and a return to order. After a police officer was pulled from his motorcycle and beaten by protestors, Mitsotakis gave a televised address. He stated “I am addressing young people, who are destined to create and not to destroy. […] Blind rage does not lead anywhere. It should serve as a wake-up call that the life of a young policeman was endangered. At this point everyone must display restraint and calm.” There was no mention of the man that was beaten by police. Apparently violence only exists in the bourgeois mind once it’s directed at them.

Police brutality is by no means merely an international problem, something that “happens over there,” Australia has a long and storied history of police violence. Currently, Melbourne Activist Legal Support is investigating numerous cases of police brutality and excessive use of force. These range from the potentially illegal use of pepper spray at the 2019 International Mining and Resources Conference to the brutal use of force against the protestors protecting the sacred Djab Wurrung trees. We saw the same excesses against the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in Sydney and in other parts of the country. Going back a bit further in history, particularly notable are Queenslanders, who lived under Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s police state for nineteen years. While these are merely a few examples, it is imperative not to forget the disproportionate amount of police violence indigenous people suffer every day.

The police operate as one of the main repressive arms of the state. Their function not only sets them apart from the working class but sets them in direct opposition to us. They are the snarling lapdogs of the state which frequently sends them out to break up strike actions, disperse demonstrations, protect far-right marches, all in the name of “law and order.” It is the duty and right of the working class, here and everywhere, to protest police brutality, and if they step out of line, pull out their teeth, so they’re all bark, no bite.

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