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October 23, 2012
October 23, 2012

Chalkidiki: Brutal repression at demonstration against gold-mining industry in Skouries

Author: S. Poulimeni Translator: Alexia Giakoubini
Source: Alterthess  Categories: On the crisis, Protest
This article is also available in: eselfr
Chalkidiki: Brutal repression at demonstration against gold-mining industry in Skouries

Skouries in 12.10.2012 and in 06.12.2012

“Police wanted to kill us”. That was the common feeling among the residents of Chalkidiki who protested on Sunday the 21st of October at Skouries[1]. The mountains of Chalkidiki are soon to be turned into mines by the Canadian multinational company Eldorado Gold[2]. Citizens that gathered to protest in peace against the plans that are going to destroy the forest and the animals that have lived in these mountains for thousands of years, have once again experienced the police brutality. The police force of our “democratic” country has once more used poisonous chemicals, physical and verbal violence. Even though it is common nowadays to experience such brutality by law the enforcement officials, the repression imposed on the people protesting in Skouries was beyond imagination. It was, however, without doubt, premeditated and the Committee against the construction of the mines was warned officially by letter by Mr. Konstantinos Papoutsis, Chief Inspector of the Police Department of Chalkidiki. The order “break them” was hidden behind the advices and the warnings of the letter.

Since the morning it was obvious how things would play out: People of all ages from different areas of Chalkidiki, Thraki, the city of Thessaloniki were arriving by cars and buses at the meeting place of the demonstration, Chodro Dentro. Police had already started the “traffic” checks on cars approaching the area and had arrested 3 people that were just carrying gas masks.

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Once the protesters reached Chondro Dentro, they set out to walk the 6 km towards the company premises located inside the forest. The protesters had brought water and food for everyone. By the time the crowd reached the company premises, numerous police Special Forces where already lined up along with undercover police who were taking pictures of the protesters. At the head of the march there were women who, in a sitting protest, demanded from the police to allow them to pass onto the premises. They were asking them: “Whose interests are you protecting?” but there was no answer.

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After a while, the protesters noticed there was a fire in the forest. A pile of woods was set on fire, which surprisingly did not cause the policemen any worries.  Needless to say that it was a provocative act by some who was against the protesters and their cause.  Even before the fire brigade reached the spot, the protesters rushed to extinguish the fire. In a few minutes and without any warning, the police attacked. Teargas was fired straight onto the protesters. People couldn’t breathe and panic spread when the police charged against them, chasing and hitting them without second thoughts. Some of those under attack run to save themselves inside the forest and others were badly beaten or injured in their attempt to protect themselves. At that point, the police took into custody 8 people who did not manage to run, mostly women. The rest of the protesters managed to escape from this atrocity by cars and reached the starting point of the protest, Chondro Dentro.

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The second attack

While the protesters gathered to demonstrate towards the Police Department of Poligiros to complain about the repression, the brutality and the arrests, more riot police arrived at the mountain. They charged at the protesters, who  were crammed together with gridlocked cars on the road, using gas. Police broke many car windows, fired tear-gas inside  and attacked protesters, kicking them and making arrests. “We got 15” a policeman happily screamed!

The story, however, does not end here since at the police station new surprises awaited those protesting for the detention of 18 people.

The police did not let neither the lawyers nor Syriza[3] MP, Mrs. Iglezi, to visit them. A policeman in civial clothes  even taunted her and hit with his club. When she threatened to sue him asking for his name, he shouted his name at her with audacity. It was obvious that he had no fear of any consequences. What was also very strange was the presence, among the policemen, of a man that was wearing a hood and held a club. A couple walking in the mountain was taken into custody with their dog! They were told that emergency flares were found in their car (it was obvious that they were planted there). Later, they found their car flat tired.

The protesters remained outside the police station to support the 14 (out of 18 people taken in the police station) people arrested until early in the morning. Among the 14 there were many locals, members of Syriza youth, a town councilor and an aged man that was attacked earlier in his car. According to witnesses, policemen smashed his car window and fired teargas at him, which resulted in his losing control of the car. He was taken to the hospital because he suffered from heart problems. He was charged with “attempt to cause bodily harm”. The rest of them were charged with the crime of “stasi”[4] and with that of “disturbance of domestic peace”. Two protesters that were transferred to the hospital with injuries, complained of bullying by riot police in the hospital.

 

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Witness testimonies

Mrs M. Ververidou, 62 yrs old:

“My husband and I were coming down the mountain when they started firing teargas so we rushed to our car to leave the place. We were the last to leave because we were still looking for a woman that was with us earlier. Suddenly I heard a loud noise on the car window, then a second one. A policeman opened the door, dragged me out and ordered me to get on my knees. “But why?” I complained in shock, “I haven’t done anything wrong!” “Cause I say so” he shouted. I complied since it looked like I didn’t have much choice and then he started kicking the soles of my feet with his boots. I was screaming in pain. When my husband came to see what was going on, they made him kneel too. I guess my screams made them stop, although they ‘promised’ to deal with us later”. Mrs. Ververidou was taken to the police station in a police wagon along with her husband and then to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a shin injury and nerve damage before being fitted with a brace.

“I have never before experienced such pain. They didn’t just stomp on my legs. They also stomped on our dignity, of all those trying to save this place for their children and their grandchildren” added Mrs. Ververidou after she was released.

Mrs. Lagieri, resident of Ouranopoli:

“I was among the women that stood at the front. Without any warning we were attacked. They fired teargas at us and then they started chasing us. I stopped just a few meters away, where a young girl was helping out an old woman. An undercover policeman that was wearing a hood offered to help the girl. Instead, she was attacked and then taken to the wagon that transferred her and others to the police station. I left the road, walked inside the forent in order to escape. I came across the police special forces. I saw them chasing people in the forest, firing teargas and hitting women that were on the ground.”

Mr. Kromidas, resident of Ierissos:

“I was last in the line of cars, when people, both in cars and on foot, were trying to escape towards Chondro Dendro. There was an old woman with me in the car. She came to protect herself from the teargases. Suddenly and with no reason, we were attacked by policemen who broke the windscreen. The car was full of teargas”.

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Mr. Lagotsos, resident of Ierissos:

“We were retreating. We were the last to leave. Teargas was fired towards the cars and the protesters. Their chief shouted “That’s it! Stop it!” but some of the officers did not obey. They broke the window of a car full of people and fired teargas inside. Some of the protesters managed to get out of the car and the driver lost control of the vehicle. The car crashed onto a tree a few meters down the hill. I saw them grab a girl from inside the car, throw her on the ground and beat her”.

What happened in Skouries on Sunday the 21st of October proves that the government is acting in the interests of a multinational company at any cost. The police orders were not simply to block the protesters from the mountain but to convince them never to come back under any circumstances. Their brutality, though, caused not only fear but also solidarity among those that were beaten, arrested, scared, and angry that day. And that is going to last much longer than their plans.

[1] Skouries is an ancient forest in North-East Chalkidiki which will be totally destroyed by the gold mining

[2] El Dorado Gold is Canadian Company involved in gold mining in China, Brazil, Romania, Turkey and now Greece. The Greek state bought in 2003 for 11 million euros the mines from the company TVX Gold (who left the country owing to its employees 17 million euros) and sold them, the same day and without a tender, at the exact same price to Ellinikos Xrisos which is a subsidiary of El Dorado Gold. To understand the size of the fraud, it is estimated that in the next 20 years, the return of this investment will be 7.2 billion euros from which the Greek state will not benefit at all.

[3] Syriza is a left-wing party that, after the 2012 election, is the second largest political force in Greece

[4] Someone is accused that has participated in a rally/protest were they have used or attempted to use violence in order to compel authority to act otherwise than lawfully defined.

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