By Vasiliki Theodosiou,
During a typical afternoon in Greece, one of the most watched videos of the month shot and uploaded was showing a police officer beating a university student for allegedly breaking the lockdown rules.
This incident constituted one amongst many that have unfolded in the past year, creating public outrage and giving rise to a cycle of violence that ended up including protests and police officers themselves getting injured.
It goes without saying that violence, no matter its source, is condoned and criticised as it violates human rights principles as well as the concept of democracy itself. Nevertheless, the very fact that it constantly seems to be provoked by a state that claims to be democratic, let alone using the very same word in the name of the current ruling party, is undoubtedly problematic.
Thousands of years ago, Aristotle was highlighting the fact that civilians have a tendency to imitate the state’s actions. If one was to expand on this notion based on the events that are unfolding in the modern world of #blacklivesmatter and #endpolicebrutality, it could be stated that once the state itself embraces violence via the mechanisms that are supposed to be representing it, civilians are left with little room but to do the same.
An eye for an eye, makes the world go blind, however, in a vicious and violent cycle, it is the state that has the obligation to take the primary step into ending it, either by enforcing the apology of those responsible or by ensuring that those events never occur again. Unfortunately, Greece is yet to see such change.
From increasing the police manpower to introducing bills that make an effort to legislate and control protests, a movement towards a peaceful and effective solution seems to be far away from what civilians are currently experiencing. Amnesty International has been one of the primary human right organisations that stepped in the picture by condemning police brutality and it has done so multiple times in the past as well.
The power of social media was yet another important factor that contributed to the spread of the video that became viral as well as for the public outcry that followed demanding the resignation of Mihalis Chrisohoidis, the current Greek Minister of Citizen Protection, as to their eyes he bears a significant amount of responsibility for the latest events. At the same time, the Prime Minister, instead of responding to the public asking him to apologise or even quit, he stated that social media are not representative of what is actually happening, moving as far as to state that social media are in fact harming democracy and are creating tensions. Yet, the very notion that he explains, that of everyone being able to express their opinion freely online, is a democratic notion, that apparently “New Democracy” perceives as harmful for their very own “neodemocratic” narrative.
And if these were not enough to make the headlines in newspapers abroad, the decision of the government to appoint police officers with the duty of guarding the universities of the country earlier this year, is questioned once more under the light of the latest events accompanied by video footage from within the universities showing confrontations between the two. Not only the student body but also the teaching personnel, expressed their concerns on the application of this new bill as well as for the violent incidents that broke out in a space that is meant to peacefully educate.
Gathering all these bits and pieces of multiple occurrences that no one can be proud of, there is one lesson to be learned: engaging in violence as a means to exercise statehood instantly disqualifies the state of being democratic. Engaging in violence as a means of expressing one’s discontent with the state’s actions is equally blameworthy and makes one lose their credibility. If there is a need to persuade someone on their wrongdoings and their faulty behaviour, go ahead and do so via a peaceful dialogue. Because violence, might indeed make people listen to you and your concerns but it will never get people to respect you.
- Amnesty International, Greece: Police violence in Greece: Not just ‘isolated incidents’ . Available here.
- Aristotle, Politics 2.1
- BBC, Greece violence: Officers injured in police brutality protests. Available here.
- News 247, Όταν πέσει νεκρός ένας περιπατητής σε πλατεία, πού θα κρυφτεί ο Χρυσοχοΐδης; Available here.
- The Guardian, Greek PM appeals for peace after police brutality ignites riots. Available here.
- Κυριάκος Μητσοτάκης τα social media κάνουν κακό στην δημοκρατία. Available here.
- AlfaVita, Καθηγητές: Δεν θα δεχτούμε Αστυνομία στα Πανεπιστήμια. Available here.