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Greece: Wave of Racist Attacks on Immigrants in Athens

In the past days, right-wing extremists in Athens, Greece have launched pogrom-like attacks on immigrants in the downtown Athens area. It began on May 10, 2011, one day after a 44-year old escorting his pregnant wife to the hospital was mugged and stabbed to death. There is no evidence as to the identity of the killers, but racist gangs have gone on something like vengeance spree on immigrants -or even foreign-looking Greeks- who they hold generally responsible for rising crime and unemployment in Greece.

A protest against the killing of the expectant father on May 10, in the same location where the mugging happened, drew a crowd of hundreds that eventually led to the attacks.

A man injured in racist attack after protest in Athens, 12 May 2011. Photo by Epoca Libera, copyright Demotix

A man injured in racist attack after protest in Athens, 12 May 2011. Photo by Epoca Libera, copyright Demotix

Dozens of people have been injured in the past days, and there has also been one death, which is still being investigated for motive. There has been a marked increase in incidents of violence against immigrants and asylum-seekers in Greece in recent years, but this degree of openly racist violence in the streets is unprecedented.

Twitter has erupted with reactions from citizens.

Media reports

Media professional @doleross provided live news coverage of the attacks on immigrants following the protest around 18:00 on May 10.

@doleross: Σε “κυνηγητό” κατά μεταναστώνστην 3η Σεπτεμβρίου έχουν επιδοθεί οι συγκεντρωμένοι για την δολοφονία του 44χρονου.Εμφανίστηκαν τα ΜΑΤ #rbnews

@doleross: Demonstrators against killing of 44-year old are on immigrant “manhunt” on September III Street. Riot police appeared.

@doleross: MEGA τώρα: Ακροδεξιοί στην 3η Σεπετεμβρ. δέρνουν και κυνηγούν μέχρι μέσα στα σπίτια τους αλλοδαπούς. Η αστυνομία δεν επεμβαίνει. #rbnews

@doleross: MEGA TV now: Right wing extremists on September III Street, beating and chasing immigrants, even into their homes. Police not intervening.

@doleross: Πληροφορίες αναφέρουν ότι ομάδες “τιμωρών” έχουν βγει κ σε άλλες περιοχές της Αθήνας κ άλλων δήμων, “αναζητώντας” αλλοδαπούς.#rbnews

@doleross: Reports that “vigilante” squads are scouring areas of Athens and other municipalities, “seeking” immigrants.

Greek expats summarized the distressing news. Film producer Yanni Koutsomytis tweeted in English:

@YanniKouts: Racial violence erupts in downtown Athens following killing of a 44-yr Greek man. Ultra-right groups indiscriminately attack immigrants now

Greek new media theorist Nikos Smyrnaios observed in French:

@smykos: Grèce, une société au bord de l'implosion: un homme assassiné sauvagement à Athènes => des extrémistes racistes pourchassent des immigrés.

@smykos: Greece, a society about to implode: a man savagely assassinated in Athens => racist extremists chase immigrants.

Eyewitness reports

"This is Greece". Twitpic photo by Nektarios Sylligardakis.

"This is Greece". Twitpic photo by Nektarios Sylligardakis.

Eyewitness reports of attacks on immigrants between 19:00 and 21:00 were sparse, but dramatic:

@nsyll: Κυνηγούν ποιον είναι λίγο μελαψός http://twitpic.com/4vypvc

@nsyll: They're chasing everyone a bit dark http://twitpic.com/4vypvc

@potmos: Σπάνε 1-2 καταστήματα “ξένων” τώρα Αχαρνών

@potmos:They're smashing 1-2 shops of “foreigners” now, in Acharnon Street

@bezesteni: Καμμια 50ρια φασίστες και περίεργοι μεσήλικες Ηπείρου και Γ´ Σεπτεμβρίου. Αρκετοί νεαροί με μαυροκόκκινα στην Αχαρνών και τα γύρω στενά.

@bezesteni: About 50 fascists and middle-aged onlookers, Ipirou and September III Street. Several youths wearing red and black in Acharnon Street and adjacent alleys

@zairacat: damage control: μαθαίνω ότι υπάρχουν πολλοί μετανάστες χτυπημένοι στα εφημερεύοντα νοσοκομεία.

@zairacat: damage control: have been told many beaten immigrants admitted to hospitals on call.

The wave of racist attacks in Athens continued the following days, with one killing of an immigrant man possibly linked to racial motives [el], arson attacks [el] and a second anti-migrant pogrom following a protest [el].

Reactions on Twitter

Sharply divided, the Greek twittersphere reacted to the news of he lethal mugging and the racist violence that followed with a mixture of outrage, apprehension and resignation.

The media were also blamed by many for inflaming racial hatred.

@doleross: Λάδι στην φωτιά ρίχνουν ανεύθυνα δημοσιεύματα από “ενηνερωτικά” πορταλς με τίτλους όπως: «Φόβοι για νέα “Δεκεμβριανά”» #rbnews

@doleross: Irresponsible articles by “news” portals fanning the flames, with titles like “Fears of new ‘December riots'”

@radicalalchemist: ΣΚΑΙ: “Απο τις κάμερες φαίνεται οτι είναι μαροκινής ή αλγερινής καταγωγής” Κάμερες που κάνουν και ταυτοποίηση στοιχείων φαντάζομαι έ?

@radicalalchemist: SKAI (TV channel): “CCTV footage shows assailants are Moroccans or Algerians” Cameras identifying people now?

@Cyberela: Θα το ρίξουν στο μεταναστευτικό κύμα των λαών της Νότιας Αφρικής και της Μέσης Ανατολής.

@Cyberela: They'll now blame it on the migration wave from Middle East and North Africa

A distressing allegation was made by Constantinos Alexacos:

@constantnos: Εδώ και μήνες υπάρχουν blogs φερόμενων αστυνομικών και ακροδεξιών που λένε ότι θα κάνουνε πολιτοφυλακή. Ουδείς ίδρωσε…

@constantnos: Alleged police and right-wing blogs have been warning for months about setting up militias. No one cared…

Some Twitter users pointed out core issues engendering violence in the city center. The demographics of entire housing blocks have changed, as right-wing groups have mounted more anti-immigrant campaigns.

@Anastasialadiab: Πόσο ανόητοι όσοι πιστεύουν ότι για την εξαθλίωση του κέντρουτης Αθήνας φταίνε οι μετανάστες κ όχι αυτοί που έδιωξαν τους Μόνιμους Κατοικους

@Anastasialadiab: How foolish are those who believe that immigrants are to blame for the degradation of Athens downtown, and not those who drove away the permanent residents.

And urged authorities to react to the growing humanitarian crisis facing Athens:

@mao_tse_tung: η τραγικότητα του σημερινού εγκλήματος μπορεί να γίνει εξαιρετική αφορμή για ν αρχίσει η προσπάθεια να αλλάξει η κατάσταση. Δήμαρχε ξύπνα!

@mao_tse_tung: today's tragic crime can provide excellent motivation in an attempt to change things. Wake up, Mayor!

While others mused on the self-perpetuating nature of violence:

@nsyll: όταν απαντάς στην βία με βία σίγουρα έχεις χάσεις κάθε δικαίωμα να ζητάς ανθρωπιά

@nsyll: when you answer violence with violence, you've surely lost all rights of recourse to humanity

As interest on Twitter abruptly moved on to other things for the night, like the popular Eurovision song contest, Helena Chari offered a damning deadpan:

@helena_chari: ελλαδα: ουτε euro, ουτε vision, μονο eurovision

@helena_chari: Greece: no euro, no vision, just Eurovision

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