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Reporters in Times of Riots

26 January 2011 / 20:01:07  GRReporter
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Social unrest in Greece does not subside and is often accompanied by massive street riots. The world learns about them from us, the reporters, who breathe tear gas, stoop to avoid the next flying stone, pass by burning trash bins. What does it mean to be a reporter during riots – here are our team’s impressions.

Protesters lack imagination

Marina Nikolova

In an interview on CNN Oprah Winfrey says that she always takes the side of the poor and the downtrodden, the troubled people because she can be in their place. Remember it! I am running to the subject about which we have chosen to write in the blog - what do we, as journalist, think of at the demonstrations that happen quite often lately. I changed as someone who has lived in Greece for many years and I began to take the demonstrations as something usual. Over a year of active protests of drivers, television technicians, students, teachers, families with many children, communists, immigrants. It is never boring here with us!

But I will say that protesters lack imagination – they could sing playful slogans and change the repertoire, organize interesting happenings or just effective events to achieve their goals. But it is difficult for them to admit they are only occasionally involved in a great show that has its price every time - the anger of passengers in the public transport on strike or of drivers because the city centre is closed.

The real communist rallies in Greece which involve open-minded volunteers sometimes make me feel like I am on parade of Mao in China, just as I imagine it. Workers sing the anthem of the Socialist International with raised fists, others come to the demonstration with helmets hung on the pants, the rest hold their hands in a human chain to express their solidarity. Slogans for class struggle. It all sounds like something that has been taken out from other decades.

Sharp eyes, fire in the eyes, hormones in the red ... People in Greece go to demonstrations because they believe that this is their way of protest here and now, en masse, to show their strength against any regulation the Members of Parliament are preparing to vote.

I'll never get used to tear gas

Victoria Mindova

 

Protests in Greece follow the same course in most of the cases. Some left-wing unions announce a strike and go to protest in downtown Athens or Thessaloniki. They bring their protest posters, big megaphones, and sunglasses if the weather is nice. They shout against the government in power and its measures and then disperse.

You can always feel when things will turn from an usual Greek protest into stones, Molotovs and tear gas. The shadows of the anarchists are seen early in the rally. If it is a procession, their group is always the last. Tensions escalate while ordinary protesters chant. People with all kinds of suppressed problems find a way to express their discontent, frustration and anger, which is not always the result of the specific case. Slogans like "Cops-Pigs", "Animals-Killers" and the like are often heard.

Yelling, screaming and tension unleash. Only a second is left to the sign - the boys in black with gas masks, stones and what not in hands run away from the crowd. Civilian protesters sink in it and the urban warfare starts - pieces of curbs fly, Molotov falls down with a crash from somewhere. Police officers armed with helmets, shields and arms and legs protectors use the tear gas and carry on with the crowd.

The ears are roaring with adrenaline and I try to make a nice picture of an anarchist at a time when he throws the Molotov or of a policeman who had raised the truncheon against a participant in the protest. It was the first protest I covered. My eyes and throat are hot, my nose runs five times more than it does during the worst runny nose and I ask: "What, the fuck, will change tomorrow? What do these people want? They all know that five stones thrown and another 10, 20, and even 100 Molotovs will change nothing!" Then it came to my mind – they all have fun!

I go to hardcore concerts for a long time. The music there is strong, aggressive and soaked with rage. It blows your head. You can jump, dance and get as crazy as you like without even care what the person next to you will think because he or she came to do the same. I go because I like it. I have fun. Because I feel refined, more relaxed and more prepared to face the reality of everyday life after the concert.

Apparently, the so-called anarchists feel the same way after riots. And you just breathe cigarette smoke at the concert in the worst case, not tear gas. I’ll never get used to it.

Ordinary Greeks forget that they are the ones to choose their governors

Anastasia Balezdrova

Greece has a long and rich tradition in protests which often end with a shower of tear gas by the police in response to the attacks with stones and Molotov cocktails from protesters. The so-called "known unknown" or "hooded youths" are on almost any strike or protest rally for the sole purpose to cause confusion and clashes. This happened during the last Panhellenic strike in December when a group of anarchists literally tore the flow of protesters in two still at the beginning. They dispersed the peaceful demonstrators, causing fires and severe damages to shops in downtown Athens.

Tags: GreeceUnrestProtestsRiotsJournalistsMedia news
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