Em: A Greek person who has been involved for years in anarchist and grassroots struggles and has lived the past four years in London.
In London, the response was immediate
I’ve been involved in squatting and setting up social centres, participating in local projects, housing campaigns, and more general campaigns throughout the UK. I wasn’t so much a part of the Greek community here. My political milieu was British.
In London the response to the killing of Alexis was immediate. At first it was mainly Greek people, but also some Brits and Poles. Personal connections, Greeks and others who had friends and contacts in Greece, enabled this fast response. Also the Internet and Indymedia. The first actions happened on Sunday the very next day What we could do was limited by police repression, which is very well developed in Britain. But it was also limited by the fact that some of us were already burnt out.
Our goal was to raise the political cost of what was happening in Greece.We knew what our goal was, in that sense it was clear, but in another sense it’s not so clear, not so straight-forward, because it was also an emotional response. That's an important part of it. We were reacting emotionally to what was happening in Greece. But I think we achieved our goal. Our actions made themselves felt, and they were very much appreciated in Greece. They made them feel that they weren’t alone. We should never underestimate the emotional factor. The people in Greece were not having an easy time. What was happening was exciting but it was also extremely difficult and stressful and frightening. To know that they weren’t alone, that there was support, was very important for them.
I consciously decided on the 6th of December to organise solidarity actions in London, and I stayed there until the 15th. Then I came back to Athens and stayed here until February and I decided I had to move back to Athens. The city has changed. So I went back to London and got my things and came back here. But since the 6th of December I’ve been running around constantly organising things. It’s been my entire life.
Mostly we organised protests and blockades-blockading the Greek embassy and the offices of the Greek tourist organisation. At the first official protest, Monday the 8th, five people got arrested while blockading the embassy. Two days later there was another one but no one got arrested. On Sunday the 15th of December there was a big protest in Dolston Station in North London. This was the first action in collaboration with the British anarchist scene. It was a hard thing to bring them in contact. I was one of the only ones trying to get the general anarchist movement in touch with the Greek enclave. There are only a few active Greek anarchists in London, but lots more who identify as anarchists though they aren’t active. They only show up when it’s something related to Greece.
Even the Stalinists had a protest in front of the Greek embassy which was surreal, because the day before the chief secretary of the Communist Party in Greece renounced the uprising and the violence. So I went up to them and told them to piss off.
There were other solidarity actions all over Britain-- Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh. Some of these actions exceeded what was normal for protests in Britain. Seeing what happened in Greece had a positive effect on the movement. The people felt inspired again, and empowered. The solidarity actions themselves were typical, they weren’t anything special. Sorry for being so cynical but I want to be realistic. The actions themselves weren’t so special, and they were quite small. But you could see that people were more enthusiastic. Greece helped them to reclaim a dream that they had kind of lost. It’s what happened in any other European city that is experiencing repression. They found a dream and said we can do it, they regained their confidence. And now you saw what happened in the G20 [protests in London in April, 2009, where anarchists stole some of the spotlight from the world leaders by fighting with police and smashing some banks]. They got inspired in many ways.
Many people are scared of returning to normality. I have no problem with this because what changes is the way you perceive things. Greece is a time bomb after December. Even if it doesn't happen right now, it will happen. Everyone knows that. I think it will take the police killing someone else to create another insurrection, but that could happen. I had a friend badly injured in a protest in February. They threw a stun grenade at him, it exploded on his shoulder, and it burned him badly. If it had hit him in the head he could have been killed. The police are stupid. They're very scared, but they're stupid, and violent, and they could kill someone again.