Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ministry of Love Needs You

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently.

We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives.

They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal.

We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?’"

2009 - looking back

I thought that in keeping with tradition I'd look back over the last twelve months, choosing one image for each month. Not that life fits into such neatly packaged units of time but as an organisational principle it's a somewhat better than a "top ten". Like many here in Greece 2009 has been a tough year on many levels. For me personally, it has seen tragedy and loss of people close to me and a growing realisation that I, too am not immune to the passage of time and all that entails.


Manolis Glezos

This was a terrible time, full of anger, guilt and regret. My mother had been diagnosed with cancer a few weeks beforehand and died just one day before I could get back to England to see her. As you can imagine this was an awful shock and something I am still struggling to come to terms with. The fact that this happened during one of the most turbulent periods in my life and modern Greek history just added to the emotional weight of my memories.

Riots, demonstrations and almost daily clashes between protesters and the police which I covered as much as I could for various citizen journalism sites.


Sony kai kala

The month proved to be a lot less eventful than the previous ones and despite strikes and protests seemed much calmer allowing people to enjoy traditional celebrations such as Tsiknopempti - the start of Greek Orthodox Lent - with barbeques and fancy dress parties. Though even then there were echos of the previous upheavals with riot police deployed against boisterous teens in the centre of Thessaloniki (see video here).

On a lighter note various news stories both here in Greece and abroad allowed to to sharpen my satirical talons. The escape of Vasilis Paleokostas and Alket Razai from the maximum security Korydallo prison Athens by helicopter for the second time produced response that mixed cynical humour and disbelief. (click here for my take on this). Also Ryanair's decision to consider introducing pay toilets on their flights gave everyone a rich source of possible jokes


Greek general strike 2009 - γενική απεργεία 2009

More of the same; government scandals, police brutality, riots and bomb attacks in Athens. The ruling New Democracy party and prime minister Karamanlis barely had to time to talk down one politically catastrophic gaffe before another popped up freshly minted in the news. As well as reading about such events I also wrote about them for citizen journalism sites such as Nowpublic.

I also attended the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival and followed debates about about the differences between New Media and more traditional forms. All I can say is that most of the mainstream media here in Greece are polishing the brasswork on the Titanic. "Iceberg,what iceberg?" seems to be their motto.

Already they are being badly hit by the downturn in the economy and fall in advertising revenue. Their reply so far has been to cut costs and reduce the quality of what is, to a large extent aready a pretty poor product. Wooden language, worn out formulas and a phobic fear of change is not going save them and few will mourn their demise.


Mass surveillance: We spy because we care.

For me the major event of the month was the G20 meeting in London and the killing of Ian Tomlinson by a British police officer. Even though I was at the other end of Europe the internet allowed me to follow this story in a way that would have been unthinkable, even a decade ago. Sites such as Twitter, blogs, even streaming video allowed those there to get out their story, unfiltered by the mainstream media, who seemed happy to unquestioningly lap up what the authorities had to say. So, as the saying goes,I became the media rather than just ranting about it with posts on my blog and stories elsewhere.

Thankfully, the circumstances surrounding Ian Tomlinson's tragic death following an unprovoked attack came to light despite a concerted effort by the London Metropolitan Police surpress the story. The video taken by onlookers published on the Guardian website along with several eyewitness accounts forced the authorities to backtrack in the face of evidence which called into question their version of events.


Average (UK) MP's expenses cost taxpayer £118,000

As the passed by I became more and more interested in the satirical possibilities offered by altering pictures and adding my own twist. After much hair pulling and not-infrequent pleading to the gods of computer coding I managed to become more proficient with GIMP (an open source version of Photoshop). My first target was the UK MP's expenses scandal which was breaking. Tales of politicians claiming the cost of everything from moat cleaning, to 42 inch plasma screens as legitimate expenses provided enough raw materials to keep an army of satirist in work for a lifetime. Click here for more examples.

With European parliamentary elections looming there was also ample chance to satirise targets closer to home, namely the two most important parties here in Greece, New Democracy and PASOK who were both embroiled in Siemens Athens Olympics games security contract scandal.


Thessaloniki lightning storm - Taken now

Although most of my lessons were finishing for summer there was plenty of other things happening to keep my busy. Election campaigning for the European elections, street parades, anti - racism festival and a semi-naked bike ride amongst other things meant that there was plenty to photograph and report about in Thessaloniki.


Alice in Wedding Land

July saw my first wedding as a photographer and to say I was nervous is an understatement. Still. I managed to get the job done without being sued or maimed.

I decided to continue improving my photoshopping (sounds better than GIMPing) skills to make fun of targets such as the BNP and use my access to citizen journalism sites in order to expose the terrible conditions and abuses of immigrants here in Greece. Although there had been some international media coverage of what was happening, much of it lacked local knowledge or looked at the wider political context in which such ill-treatment was taking place.

Still, the month was not without excitement as I reminded myself when being hunted by police using motorbikes as they were chasing down protesters following a trial in the centre. The exact same tactics as are being used in Iran now. Draw your own conclusion.


Eleni and Orhan

Usually a month were most people leave the cities and head for the beaches, yet for reasons too dull to discuss at length I was stuck here in Thessaloniki. However,l not wanting to do nothing I, and friends Eleni and Orhan started a project to photograph 1000 people in the city. We still haven't finished it yet but that's just a matter of time.

Also I continued writing about the kind of stories that the mainstream media don't bother with such as police injustics, ill - treatment of immigrants and just about anything that doesn't involve party politics, sport or celebrities.


Greek communists kick off election campaign

Once again party politics took centre stage as the country went to the polls for the second time in six months, this time to vote in a new national government. In contrast with previous election campaigns this one was very low key as the ruling New Democracy party went through the motions of contesting the vote, knowing full well that it had managed to severely damage the credibility of the country by massively under reporting public debt load.

At the beginning of 2009 Kostas Karamanlis's conservative administration stated that public borrowing would be less than 4% of GNP. In the end the figure was over 14% yet another concrete demonstration of their inability to do much other than put up a slick PR front.

The campaign, however, did provide a chance to take more pictures and see the leaders of all the major political parties in the flesh. Once again a smile and a confident air proved more effective than any form accreditation.


Κώστας Καραμανλής - Costas Karamanlis. Prime minister of Greece

Elections came and with them the crushing defeat of New Democracy by the left wing PASOK party led by Giorgos Papandreou, son and grandson of previous prime ministers. The conservatives's scandal ridden second term lasted just two years before voters finally showed that they were no longer willing to put up with graft, ineptitude and influence peddling.

On a more painful note a very good friend of mine died after struggling with liver disease and I will always miss his humour and friendship.


50th Thessaloniki Film Festival - opening night

Thessaloniki's Film Festival brought a much needed touch of glamour to the city and I enjoyed the experience of going to parties and openings. On the other hand the ongoing clashes between the police and the city's youth once gain came to the fore during the annual 17th November demonstrations, though this time the authorities decided to implement their new "get tough" policy with liberal use of tear gas, mass arrests and motorbike riding officers all employed to deal with the slightest hint of violence on the streets.


Kettled and tear gassed - Thessaloniki Greece

2009 decided to go out with a bang and not a whimper. Riots in Greece, turmoil in Copenhagen, aid covoys to Gaza and mad bomber taking hostages in a local school were just some of the events that caught my attention. A busy end to a busy year.

Like, many I am worried about what 2010 has in store for us. The economic crisis has started to hit hard and many are struggling to make ends meet even while prices keep on shooting up and jobs, even badly paid, insecure ones become harder and harder to find. The sight of old people begging or rooting through garbage bins is no longer rare or shocking. The streets ofthe city are littered with empty shops and For Sale signs, further indication that there is less and less money around. Whilst cafes and bars in the richer areas may still be full of people enjoying over priced coffee these are becoming the exception rather than the rule.

On a brighter note and despite the fact that the year started with a tragedy it ended with some great news when I learnt that my brother and his wife are expecting twins.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Memories of 2009


Taken at the 50th Thessaloniki Film Festival on the opening night. Great party.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Lydia, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Help Viva Palestina - send a email to the Egyptian government

UK - Gaza aid convoy reaches Greece - Viva Palestina

At this moment the Viva Palestina aid convoy lies stranded on the Egyptian-Jordanian border (follow their progress on Twitter) unable to proceed with the delivery of much needed humanitarian aid as the Egyptian government has so far refused the hundreds of volunteers who've raised thousands of pounds in order to buy medical and educational supplies entry.

Please feel free to copy the template below and send an email to your local Egyptian embassy or consulate. For those in the UK:

To the people and government of the Arab Republic of Egypt,

I, like many others around the world, have been following the progress of the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy as it has made its way from countries such as the United States, Great Britain, Turkey and Malaysia in order to bring medical and educational supplies to those in need in the Gaza Strip. I would like to call upon the Egyptian people to alllow the convoy to enter their territory and so complete their mission to help the Palestinian people.

Yours faithfully


For those in other locations a complete list of Egyptian embassies can be found here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve - Thessaloniki, Greece

Christmas Eve - Thessaloniki, Greece

Monday, December 21, 2009

Santa was framed

Santa had it coming. I mean the guy is part of front for the take over of the world by international communism. It's only because of the bravery of men like Jack Bauer that our country remains undefiled by his Red filth.

Five Reasons why Santa is, in fact a dirty Red.

1 - He is the spitting image of Karl Marx

2 - He has absolutely no respect for the sanctity of the home - Try entering my chimney any time over the holidays and then you'll meet my little friend, Mr M16.

3 - He believes in universal surveillance - How else does he know who's been naughty or nice?

4 - Giving away gifts to all and saundry? If that is not a direct attack on the very foundations of our economic system and by extention our way of life, I don't know what is.

5 - And he's a foreigner who seems to be able to enter US airspace at will. Who knows what military secrets he has divulged to his Red Hordes?

Surveillance and Repression in the Modern World

The best book I never wrote.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Psychology of Power by T. Dude M.Phil, BBQ

Copenhagen (COP15) - The Day The Earth Caught Fire

"John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport. Ed Miliband [UK climate change secretary] is among the very few that come out of this summit with any credit." It is now evident that beating global warming will require a radically different model of politics than the one on display here in Copenhagen."

Looking back - Failure of the Copenhagen Climate conference 2009

Lydia Baker of Save the Children said world leaders had "effectively signed a death warrant for many of the world's poorest children. Up to 250,000 children from poor communities could die before the next major meeting in Mexico at the end of next year."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Viva Palestina - video from Greece

Finally got round to editing and uploading video footage of the Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy arriving in Thessaloniki, Greece last weekend. The convoy is part of an effort to get aid from Britain and other parts of the world to the Gaza Strip. Currently, they are in Turkey and will be travelling through Syria, Jordan and Egypt before arriving in Gaza on 27th December.

You can follow their progress via Twitter and find out more about the convoy at

Friday, December 18, 2009

Between the wars

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

10 tactics for turning information into action

"Activists and campaigners are increasingly turning to digital technology and social media platforms to get their messages across. A new documentary called "10 Tactics for Turning Information into Action" provides a handbook in how best to disseminate their ideas. But, as Colin Grant reports, the film makers are also keen to stress the fact that these new digital tools present opportunities but also, sometimes, hidden dangers."

Greek trade unions march and strike over government's austerity package

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stop police violence in Copenhagen - protest outside the Danish consulate - Thessaloniki, Greece

A personal protest over the violent and illegal policing of the Copenhagen Climate Conference by Danish police who seem unable to remember where exactly they left their copy of the country's constitution. Thanks to Asteris, Eleni and Orhan for their support.

Read more here

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Photographer beaten, detained in London for being "cocky" to policeman who implies she is a terrorist

"While we are constantly controlled by the cctv, we do not have right to take photos or videos. I was stopped because I was filming and after a bit I had about 10 cops to deal with me. Even if I was not violent at all, they pushed me face down upon the floor. While they were bringing me to the van, with really tight handcuffs, they twisted my arm to give me more pain."

Greek trade unions announce general strike for 17th December

Sunday, December 13, 2009

UK - Gaza aid convoy reaches Greece - Viva Palestina

With just over half their journey completed the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid covoy reached the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki en route from the UK to Gaza. The collection of 80 plus ambulances and other vehicles carrying medical supplies stopped in the Greek city to raise awareness of the situation in the Gaza Strip which has been subject to a strictly enforced Isreali blockade since 2007.

After this evening's stopover the convoy's itinerary will take it through Turkey, Syria, Egypt and eventually to Gaza. If permitted to enter, the group which comprises of volunteers from over a dozen countries intends to donate the vehicles and supplies to Palestinian aid organisations.

The Egyptian government in conjunction with the US army engineers of has recently begun erecting a 11km steel wall aimed at cutting supply lines into Gaza. For latest updates check out their Twitter page here.

UK - Gaza aid convoy reaches Greece - Viva Palestina

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Viva Palestina convoy reaches Thessaloniki, Greece

The Viva Palestina convoy which is taking supplies from Britain to Gaza overland reached Thessaloniki today. Tomorrow the 80 odd vehicles will be at the White Tower from 10.30 onwards before going on to Turkey.

"Let them throw all their cannonballs let all their strongmen come" - December by the Waterboys

Friday, December 11, 2009

Greek police caught on camera framing innocent by-stander last Sunday

The police chase and apprehand a mask wearing man who is in possession of a bag full of petrol bombs ready to used against shops or fellow officers. Quickly he is subdued, detained and arrested, Mission accomplished. Job well done. Well, not quite. Fortunately for the 23 year old student involved this particular arrest was captured on video by a passer - by and photographed by Associated Press photographer Nikos Giakoumidis last Sunday.

It now turns out that the person arrested was a resident of the area who had decided to take out his rubbish as the march in memory of Greek teen killed by a police bullet last year was in progress. When he saw half a dozen Delta motorcycle cops racing towards him he panicked and ran only to be quickly overtaken and captured.

The video then shows the officers hitting the man, fetching a gas mask and others bringing up a bag full of Molotov cocktails which would later be used as incriminating evidence against him when he was charged. The fact that the person was wearing pyjamas seems to have escaped the notice of the half a dozen motorcycle riding Delta group policemen present at the scene.

In the video which was posted on the site another witness who gives his full name also says that his wife's mobile phone was smashed by officers in an effort to make sure no visual record of their actions would exist.

Today the Greek police made an official apology to the student and said that they would be carrying out an internal investigation.

But if this event had not been videoed there is a very good chance that the student would be behind bars at the moment and would be facing anything up to 12 months in prison awaiting trial. If he had been found guilty, and with such evidence against him that would have been a real possibility he could have faced over 15 years behind bars according to his lawyer Athanasios Tartis. All for no reason at all. You have to wonder what kind of twisted individuals would do such a thing and if this is their first attempt.

Despite the police and government's talk of "targetted arrests" during last Sunday's disturbances I saw nothing of the sort. Instead the police blindly corralled protesters and then made up the charges as they went along. I narrowly avoided such treatment myself, as being injured I managed to talk my way out of a group of 200 marchers who'd been herded into a side street and then surrounded. After repeatedly tear gassing us and beating those on the edge of the group, many were detained and some arrested, based on what criteria I do not know since the choice was made on the basis of random chance.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Protests continue in Greece

Today there were several protests in Thessaloniki and despite the pouring rain people marched through the centre over loss of jobs, lack of funding in education and in support of those arrested in mass detentions by the police on Sunday and Monday.

Greek police new Iran - style crowd control tactics.

Also in between lessons and photography I was interviewed by France 24 over the background to the latest events here in Greece. They were especially interested in the possible social effects of the country's borrowing difficulties.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Greek protesters surrounded by riot police after being tear gassed - Thessaloniki, Greece 2009

After the police had repeatedly tear gassed us and beat those who tried to get away from the place they started forcing people to sit down and attacked those around the edges of the group using clubs and shields. Later on when the TV camera arrived in force the situation had calmed down enough for me to shot this. As you can see the people here were just students protesting not a bunch of hard core anarchists set of smashing everything in sight as the media reported over the weekend.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Video showing Greek police and agent provocateurs, possibly far right Chrysi Aygi working together

The video was taken by demonstraters in Hania, Crete who were marching in memory of Alexandros Grigoropoulos shot by police last December. As you can see men, dressed in garb usually associated with anarchist protesters are quite happy to stand just a few metres away from the riot police. There have been persistent rumours that some of the damage caused by protesters over the last few days has been the work of agent provocateurs who blend in with the crowd and initiate violence in order to justify police intervention.

On the other hand if there are plain clothes officers who wish to act covertly in order to pinpoint trouble makers they do not seem unduly worried about being noticed by the marchers.

PR and punishment - Greek police's new zero tolerance policy

6.12.2009, originally uploaded by e_vra.

The Greek media has been full of praise of the way in which the recently elected PASOK government as handled the disturbances over the last few days. The new zero - tolerance policing policy announced by the minister for the protection of the citizen, Mihalis Chrisoidis has been credited with limiting the extent of violence, especially in Athens.

On the other hand the TV channels have gleefully lapped up images of young protesters throwing rocks and stones at the riot police and have been flooding the airways with stories of anarchist plots and police discoveries of caches of petrol bombs and other rioting paraphenalia. In addition the record numbers of detentions and arrests have been presented in a positive light, sign that the police have got serious about cracking down on trouble makers.

In a sense this is a repeat of the media coverage of last years uprising when the media spent at least a week blaming Greece's worst civil disturbances ina generation on hooilgans and looters, as if the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets in protests across the nation were nothing more than rampaging football fans looking for a fight.

Once again the media coverage has almost completely ignored the thousands who demonstrated peacefully this year and focused on the scenes of violence which are presented simply as acts of mindless vandalism. Indeed the channels have been falling over each other to see who can condemn the protests most, blindly accepting any figure or statement issued by the police, ignoring the opinions of anyone not in a position of authority.

On the other hand the Greek language blogosphere and elsewhere on the internet there is growing resentment of the way of this and especially the way in which the violence of the police has either been played down or completely overlooked. Reporters, who should know better have simply decided to report the official version events and leave out any loose ends such as eyewitness accounts of those actually present.

I personally witnessed what happened during the march on Sunday here in Thessaloniki when the police went into action almost immediately after it started. Just moments after the demonstraters moved off the people from the anarchist block started attacking shops selling religious goods, a supermarket and banks, quickly prompting the riot police and motorcycle units to intervene. The sight of police officers on motorbikes mounting pavements and driving through crowds of people running in panic through clouds of tear gas is not one I'll forget soon.

In the general mayhem the marchers, who are nearly always organised in blocks according to political affiliation, soon scattered and mixed and that is how I ended up with about two hundred others just below the ex-ministry of Macedonia and Thrace surrounded by riot squads who fired tear gas rounds into the group and beat anyone who tried to move away from the area.

Even after it was clear that they had control of the area, officers continued to club and kick those on the ground and refused medical help to the injured, instead shouting insults and threats at anyone who looked at them.

I cannot vouch for the character of each and everyone there but from my knowledge of the groups that regularly take part in marches the vast majority of these people were not trouble makers or bomb throwers. They belonged to student/political groups that abhor such tactics and believe that those who commit such acts damage their cause.

They, like me just happened to be in swept up with a tide of people desperately running away from police with clubs firing tear gas. Like me, they did not break away from the main group knowing full well that in such a situation small groups or individuals are easy prey for police units with a grudge and a truncheon.

The media however, reported that the authorities had isolated and captured a group of anarchists and had confiscated a large number of petrol bombs, gas masks and clubs and that 88 people had been taken in for qustioning and 20 arrested. Despite the presence of a number of TV camera crews for over an hour I saw no footage of those inside the police cordon being asked their opinion or saying what had happened, instead just fleeting glances of people on the floor followed by pictures of the weapons supposedly confiscated.

If their had indeed been such a cache present the density of the crowd and the fact that nobody was searched till hours later would have meant that those carrying such things would have had ample opportunity to get dump them out of their bags or pockets.

What we had instead was PR and punishment, the police knew that whatever version of the truth they put out would be accepted without question and that the sight of them with so many prisoners would vandicate their new get tough policy, irrespctive of whether they'd actually captured anyone who'd broken the law. On the other hand those caught up in this farce would have to endure a night in the cells, possibly weeks in court explaining their case.

The same approach was also true of the events in Athens when motorcycle cops also rode their machines into crowds of demonstrators, seriously injuring a 55 year old teacher, while the footage was shown it was presented as an unfortunate accident. No mention however was made at all of the officer who after gunning his bike into people was pulled off and in a fit of rage drew his pistol and chased them.

I'm not sure what exactly lies behind the new media landscape and why so few reporters have been critical of the present situation but with the Greek media feeling the effects of the country's economic crisis those who own the private media outlets are unlikely to antagonise a government which is in the position to provide a steady revenue stream in the form of ads and contracts.

Kettled and tear gassed

Taken yesterday in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Students march in memory of Alexandros Grigoropoulos killed last year by the police in Athens

Today thousands of students and pupils marched in cities across Greece to mark the first anniversary of the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos which sparked off the worst civil unrest for a generation.

More pictures at

This is what happens when you fire tear gas canisters at range of 10m or less.

This is what happens when you fire tear gas canisters at range of 10m or less., originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Whilst the mainstream media here in Greece has been having a feeding frenzy with the violent scenes in central Athens and talk of murder attempts on the dean of the university of Athens many other similarly deplorable acts of violence have not garnered such coverage. Three trade unionists are currently in hospital one with serious head injuries after being rammed by motorcycle units as part of the police new crowd control tactics first used in the Tehran protests (see video). Also pictures have emerged of the same officers wildly waving their service pistol in the air in an attempt to intimidate protesters (see picture).

I myself was also hit by a fragment of tear gas canister fired at point blank range into a crowd of 200 hundred or so marchers who had been "kettled" by the riot police here in Thessaloniki. I got off lightly with just a wound to the leg which just needed a few stitches, others, however, suffered more serious injuries caused in exactly the same way. Not that this stopped officer punching and kicking those on the ground once they'd gained the upper hand.

The 100 or so young people taken in for questioning were simply picked at random, unlucky enough to be in the middle of the march.

Minister of the protection of the citizen(The new Orwellian term for law and order) said on his Twitter page that he had zero tolerance for anyone breaking the law, whoever they are. Still, he'll be gone in a couple of years whereas those policemen who broke the law today will probably retire with a pension.

Greek protesters mark first anniversay of teen's killing by the police - Thessaloniki Greece

Taken during the march today in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Protests to mark the first anniversary of death of Greek teen end in clashes

Tear gassed - Thessaloniki Greece

There's nothing like blind terror for letting you know you're alive.Every sensory input suddenly lights up your neurons like a city block decked out for Christmas. You become aware of absolutely everything around you, decisions that you usually kick around your head for minutes are taken in units of times measured in 100ths of seconds. What you don't notice, however, is pain.

After being chased on and off by riot cops and those on motorbikes for more than a kilometre I end up with a couple of hundred kids just below the ministry building, there's no way out as both above and below us are platoons of riot cops who keep on shooting tear gas canisters into the crowd despite the fact that there is nowhere to go. I try to see if I get pass but those ahead of me get beaten and kicked by the riot squad and so forced back into the main mass.

A gas canister, shot out of something resembling an old style revolver smashes into the tarmac next to me, richochetting and striking my leg. In the general panic, I pay it little attention, worried that I too will next in line for a beating and move back, but where? There is nowhere to go.

Eventually, the gas clears and we realise that we are surrounded, police order us to sit down and start insulting and kicking those around the edges. Somebody, injured cries for help, they ignore her and keep on screaming at those on the ground. There are so many people in such a small space that it's nearly impossible to find room. I squeeze in besides some high school students and looking down see that my jeans are red. Is someone hurt, I Look at the guy next to me who appears to be fine. Then it dawns on me that the blood might be my own. I left the leg and see the canister has taken out a chunk of flesh in my shin. It doesn't even hurt, strangely enough.

The cops keep on whacking away at those they consider are not complying with their orders and something in me breaks. I'm not what I wanted to achieve or what good I could do but I get up and start shouting at them in English, "I'm a reporter with Reuters " I lie but that was the first thing that popped into my head, I keep on shouting it in my best "you've been naughty, now sit down" teacher's voice as loud as I can, adding that what happens today will be on the news tomorrow again and again. I'm not sure how much they understand but it distracts their attention and they seem to calm down ,or at least behave. By that time the rest of the media pack have caught up with us and so the police stand down, having more sense than to beat people on live TV.

Those detained are taken in police vans to the central police station in Thessaloniki and who knows what. Their crime simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

With the help of the march's legal team I manage to get out and find an ambulance which takes me along with another guy hit in the face by a canister to the local hospital. There we see other injured in a similar way, including a young woman hit in the head, afterwards she told me that her camera had been smashed by the police when she attempted to record their abuse.

According to Greek channel MEGA today has been a great success for the authorities and the police's new hard line has brought results. I think that what they have brought is a new round of escalation which will grow in the coming days.

Out the door

In about half an hour I'm off out to the centre of Thessaloniki to take part in the demonstrations and marches that will mark the anniversary the killing of Greek teenager, Alexandros Grigoropoulos last year. Already more than 400 schools and campuses have been occupied by students across the country and the media are saying that between 6000 and 10,000 police officers will be on hand in Athens alone. Many of my friends there have told me that centre looks more like a city under seige than ever before.

To those of you marching today, take care.

Why I march

Tomorrow we march, tomorrow we protest for those who have been lost and to make sure their sacrifice need not be repeated. To tell you the truth I'm scared, I'm sure that there will be clashes with the riot police who have adopted a zero- tolerance policy over the last few weeks.There are also keen to show that they are in charge here and that the streets belong to them and them alone,

So why do I go? That's a tough questions and I'm not sure I have a good answer to that but all I know is that not going is unthinkable. I still feel the the raw battery acid taste of rage in my mouth from when last year's events unfolded, that sense that something is fundamentally wrong with the way we live our lives if the cold blooded killing by the police of a teenager goes unremarked.

Last year I spent the better part of three weeks on the streets covering marches, sit-ins and riots in the hope that somehow the outside world would give a damn. I wanted to believe that what I photographed and wrote about helped changed perceptions about how the violent protests last December were seen by the rest of the world. How arrogant that sounds, but maybe, just maybe I was part of a wave that got out, a different message to the one that the mainstream media here were peddling, that of blind destruction and hooliganism, rather than revolt.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Countdown 2 Combat

Countdown 2 Combat, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Athens protests this weekend - A survival guide

Photograph from Greek Riots in Photos -

I thought I'd share a few tips with those covering the anniversary of the death of the Greek teenager, Alexandros Grigoropoulos this weekend. I hope they prove useful.

1 - The potential for violence has increased rapidly over the last few weeks so be prepared for clashes.

2 - Being a reporter is no guarantee of safety, especially with the police. The Greek cops have a long and inglorious history concerning photographers. They will not hesitate to use force if they feel you are photographing them.

3 - Many of the demonstrators, especially the anarchists view the media and hence reporters with the same contempt they hold for the police. Use discretion when taking pictures around them, if challenged put away your camera immediately unless you want it smashed. However, most other political/social groups are more tolerant of the media.

4 - The riot police have changed tactics recently so expect extensive use of tear gas and flash grenades. Maalox antacid tablets mixed with water can help somewhat. Though not with breathing.

5 - The grounds of the university of Athens are officially off limits to the police, so make sure you know where the nearest entrances are if the police advance. Being a foreigner or reporter will not protect you.

6 - If you do get detained make sure you have ID otherwise you risk days of belong held in a police cell.Try to get the number of some Greek friends in case you get arrested.

7 - Areas such as Exarchia are a rabbit warren of small streets, get familiar with the local geography so that if you have to make a quick retreat you know where you're heading.

8 - Running shoes are a must.

More tips from Endiaferon

Protesters will be formed into blocks. It is probable that anarchist protesters who have intention to clash will be in groups around protesters' blocks. If they start throwing rocks or other objects at the cops things may escalate in no time. I advise you that when you see the first signs of a clash, stay close to a political/student block.

In case of intense use of tear gas don't panic and don't try to run away from the main group of protesters in alleys etc. The best thing you can do (especially if you can't open your eyes) is get into a group, grab the person next to you and walk together.

A group of lawyers will be around in the protest to provide law advice in case someone gets arrested. These are their phone numbers:









If you get arrested, call them as quickly as you can. Do not sign anything in the police station and have in mind that cops may try to deceive you.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Remembering December 2008

This was taken just after the riot police went in to break up a road block set up by high school students in the centre of Thessaloniki last year during the protests that followed the death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, shot by the police in Exarchia, Athens.

The clashes between protesters and the authorities lasted for nearly a month.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Pictures from the Greek uprising - December 2008

Taken during the December riots last year. So many things were happening at the time that I barely had time to take more than a cursory look at my pictures so I only just found these.

Riot police firing tear gas canisters at high school kids who were just a few metres away.

High school student help friend hit by tear gas cannister

This was taken just moments after a riot cop fired tear gas at them from a range of less than 20m.

Remember, remember 6th December stencil - poster

The stencil is high resolution and you are free to use it in any non-commercial context.

Almost one year ago 15 year old high school student Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot in cold blood by a police officer in the Exarchia district of central Athens. The authorities originally claimed that Grigoropoulos had been part of a gang that had attacked a passing patrol car with bricks and bottles and that the officers had fired a warning shot which ricocheted, fatally wounding the teenager. However, several eyewitness accounts and video recorded on a resident's mobile phone quickly cast doubts on the official account.

In the hours, days and weeks that followed thousands took to streets and clashed with riot police repeatedly leaving much of central Athens and Thessaloniki resembling a war zone. In addition disturbances spread across the country affecting small towns and islands. The ferocity of the protests took the government and law authorities by surprise, and for the first few days the police were at a loss to control the situation. Faced by the worst civil disturbances in a generation law and order broke down as government offices, banks, stores belonging to multi-nationals and even police stations were torched.

It seemed that for many Greeks, especially those under 25 the situation in the country had become unbearable. Seething resentment over a government mired in scandal, raising unemployment, a shrinking economy and the perception that the police were above the law all combined to form an explosive mix which blew up last December and lasted for weeks.

Although the previous New Democracy government has been replaced by a left wing PASOK one, the legacy of massive public, corruption and nepotism the conservatives left as a legacy means that prime minister, Giorgos Papandreou is faced with the unenviable choice of either letting the country go bankrupt or implementing painful austerity measures which will make a mockery of the party's campaign pledges. Already the failure of Dubai to reschedule repayments on its $60 billion debt has pushed up the cost of Greece's public lending whilst the European Union has demanded that the country subject its public finances to EU oversight following the massive under reporting of debt the previous administration led by Constantinos Karamanlis.

Since December 2008 Greece has also seen a resurgence in domestic terrorism with a number of bomb and machine gun attacks on police officers and other high visibility targets. As well as the more spectacular incidents every week other smaller attacks take place on an almost daily basis as an undeclared war is waged between the far right groups and leftists. In the face of this the possibility that the anniversary of Alexandros Grigoropoulos's death will be marked peacefully grows ever more remote.

For pictures of what happened on the 6th December 2008 click here.

Tragedy or farce?

Sometimes things happen here that make a mockery of the word farce. I was reading up about the hostage taking drama in the German High School (DST) here in Thessaloniki, yesterday a 55 year old man armed with a machine gun, pistol and 5kg of high explosives managed to gain entry to the school and take three people hostage. As you can imagine this quickly became a police matter and the whole area was closed off while police SWAT teams and negotiators went to deal with the situation.

It turned out that the man at the centre of yesterday's events, Constantinos Arabatzis had done exactly the same in 2006, taking over the school, taking hostages and demanding a ransom from the German government. If that wasn't enough the previous incident took place whilst he was on leave from jail in Volos where he was serving a jail term for the kidnapping of two German ex-business partners.

Arabatzis was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the previous school drama but was released after just two years on condition that he report to his local police station regularly, which he did the day before yesterday, then went onto once again terrorise the school.

Luckily, nobody was hurt during yesterday's take over, the school put into action a contingency plan formulated after the events of 2006 and so all the students managed to evacuate the building without being noticed. At 3.25pm Arabatzis surrendered to the the police after protracted negotiations.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Principle of the German School Thessaloniki after being held hostage experience

A convicted kidnapper, on leave from prison, entered a school and held three people hostage for an hour before releasing them unharmed. The hostage situation was an exact replica of the one he got convicted of three years ago.

Greek SWAT team getting ready to deal with hostage situation in Thessaloniki

Early this morning the armed man managed to enter the school run jointly by the German and Greek states, in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki and take hostages in exactly the same manner he had done in 2006. Constantinos Arabatzis 55 years old carried an almost exact repeat of the hostage situation three years ago including taking the same person - the principle of the school.

Hostage crisis in the German School, Thessaloniki - Greece

Ararbatzis’s was sentenced to 11 years in prison following his last kidnapping but was recently released after serving just two years. In addition he had also served time in prison in Germany for tax related issues.

The situation however, ended peaceful when police negotiators managed to persuade the man to surrender and release his three hostages who included the principal of the school, the burser and a German national who works as a teacher in the German School in Thessaloniki.