The Battle of Athens
A murder stirred up the trouble.
For the past three days, Athens has been rocked by violence. It all began on Tuesday morning, when a 44-year-old man, Manolis Kantaris, was killed by three Mahgrebs (Morrocan or Algerian according to the police), as they tried to rob him of a video camera he was carrying. The most shocking part, and that which infuriated Greek citizenry, was the fact that the victim carried the video camera because he was going to take his wife to the hospital where she was to give birth to their second child. It was five in the morning, and he was heading to pick up his car so he could transport his wife and mother-in-law. When they saw he was late, they searched for him and found him in a pool of blood. The security cameras of a nearby store showed three dark colored men attacking him and stabbing him in the body and neck as he tried to resist.
Neighbors and angry citizens started to gather around the killing spot after a few hours and used thrash bins to stop the traffic. Hundreds of them gathered. Then the first clashes began. At neighboring streets and plazas in the area, which is the most heavily populated by immigrants, various Africans and South Asians were attacked and beaten. There were also attacks on anarchist squats with the police intervening to protect them.
The next day, we had two more incidents. During a demonstration (organized by leftist parties and anarchists) a demonstrator was heavily injured, allegedly by the police, and moved to the hospital in a coma. Later in the night, an Asian man was attack and killed allegedly by three men talking Greek and wearing in hoods. The police are investigating “racist” motives for the attack (read: “hate crime”).
Those incidents led us to two simultaneous demonstration in the centre of Athens on Thursday, May 12.
The one earlier in the afternoon was called by residents of the area where Kantaris was killed. Somewhere around 4,000 people gathered. After the police did not let them march towards certain squares with a heavy immigrant population, they went towards the city hall of Athens. The police did not anticipate such a crowd, and having to deal with a second demonstration but as well with a football match between two major Athens clubs did not have the numbers to contain it.
Numerous immigrant-owned shops were smashed; there were a lot of clashes between black-clad youth and immigrants as well as with the police. There were also waves of attacks against anarchist-owned squats. About 50 people were taken in police custody.
At the same time, 3,000 leftists and anarchists were gathering in the centre of Athens. Molotov cocktails were tossed were thrown at banks and at the police. But these ended quite early. Up until the morning, the center of Athens was described as being a free for all situation with clashes everywhere, mainly attacks on immigrants.
The morning of Friday 13th, came with another Greek pensioner stabbed, possibly by immigrants, again after he withdrew some money from a bank. The tension is still building up, as the first murder spot has become vigil, with people there almost 24 hours a day; the police describe it as a rallying point for attacks on immigrants.
Greece is a country that has had to deal with immigrants only in the last 20 years. The first wave of immigrants were Europeans, mainly Albanians and other Eastern Europeans; they generally caused an increase in crime, but did not create major social clashes. The second wave of African and South Asian immigration has caused a great deal of tension, especially in the centre of Athens, which is sometimes described as a huge ghetto. For the past three years though, civilians in certain areas of the center have refused to move out, as so many have done; they have organized themselves into “committees” and actively resisted the “takeover of their neighborhoods,” as they call it.
What has happened over the last days was a precursor of what we can expect in the future in many European cities—that is, urban warfare.