How much fake news can fit in 25,000 square meters?
How much fake news can fit in 25.000 square meters?
Disclaimer: The quotes in this text have been indicatively translated to English by Disinfaux Collective and do not represent a direct quotation by the individual referenced. All Greek direct quotes can be found in the original version, available here.
It’s Wednesday, October 7, 2020. Golden Dawn has just been convicted as a criminal organization and a substantial crowd is gathered on Alexandra Avenue, Athens, applauding and celebrating the Court decision. Only 40 seconds after the conviction was announced, the police force turned against the protestors by firing at them using water cannons. Why did the police begin to attack protestors less than one minute after the Court decision? This was an unprovoked attack raising questions as to whether this was a planned operation to disperse the crowd outside the Court of Appeals.
Through the analysis of the available audiovisual footage on social media and websites, Disinfaux Collective and omniatv prove that, apart from a few plastic water bottles and commercially available smoke-bombs, no molotov cocktail bombs or any other objects were thrown before the police’s attack; contending information released by government officials and shared by national and international media. Our analysis questions the official estimation of 20,000 people participating in the demonstration.
Most of the media, including international agencies, published information in line with the announcement of the Hellenic Police and the Minister of Citizen Protection, Michalis Chrisochoidis. According to the police reports, the “limited” use of tear gas by police forces was a necessary action against protesters who threw “molotov cocktails bombs”. Even the internationally recognised Associated Press reported that “some protesters threw gasoline bombs and stones at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons”. The state-funded Greek Public Broadcast (ERT) also reported that “as soon as the court decision was announced, a group of strangers started throwing molotov cocktails, smoke bombs and other objects at the police forces”, thus framing the police as victims. Immediately after the attack by police, the Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis tweeted that “600 people welcomed the Court decision with 150 molotov cocktails, stones and damages to 10 police cars” while claiming that the water cannons were used in order “for the police to avoid throwing chemicals”.
However, numerous pieces of video footage from the day of the demonstration have revealed that the police did indeed use tear gas against the crowd. In an attempt to legitimize their actions, the Minister of Citizen Protection stated that the police was forced to make limited use of water cannons but that “fortunately nobody was hurt”. The following day, in a move that appears to be an attempt to shift the narrative, the Minister of Citizen Protection accused the opposition party of suppressing protests with more chemicals by tweeting that “in 7 months, SYRIZA used 2,135 [tear gas]. In 14 months, we used three times fewer chemicals against protesters. And now, they wag their fingers and write lies! They can’t stand a serious, democratic police!”.
The reactions raised issues that reached the government. The government’s spokesperson Stelios Petsas took a stance that supports the police attack, by reasserting that the government is in full support of the actions of the police and the work of the minister. “There is no question of trust in the Minister of Citizen Protection. The policemen did their job. We do not get involved in operational matters of the police”. The General Police Directorate of Attica also issued a statement on the incidents: “The police forces used water cannons, to repel the attack of the crowd. The attackers would not retreat so we used chemicals to disperse them. The water cannons continued to be used to reduce the effects of the chemicals to the gathered crowd that was leaving the avenue at the time”.
The 150 molotov cocktails, the 600 people, and the 20,000 people at the demonstration
This was only the beginning of misinformation regarding the incidents outside the Court of Appeals. The so-called “attack of 600 people who threw 150 molotov cocktails” that the Hellenic Police represented in the media, is an unproven scenario aimed at delegitimizing demonstrations by establishing the narrative that protestors are the ones who provoked the violence. The official number of molotov cocktails and the number of “attackers” are not proven by any of the audiovisual material openly available and shared by mainstream media and social media users. However, the information spread by most of the media (international and national) regarding the volume of the demonstration, is also nowhere near the truth and, in fact, distorts the solidarian dynamics and the antifascist political message of that day. The Associated Press referred to “at least 20,000” protesters, while the German Deutsche Welle reported “over 10,000 protesters” outside the Court of Appeals.
The graph below shows the size of the demonstration outside the Court of Appeals, as it was captured the moment the verdict was announced. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that at least 80,000 people participated in the demonstration.
The loudspeakers at the anti-fascist rally announced that the crowd extended from Kifissias Avenue to Hippocrates Street. Using one of the videos available on social media, we created a panorama that helps us calculate the size of the demonstration based on the area occupied by the gathered people, as it has been recorded, from the corner of Asklipiou and Alexandra Avenue until shortly after Dim. Soutsou Street. We also recorded the people who were gathered in the alley of Loukareos, across from the Court of Appeals.
The maximum possible density for individuals per square meter is set at 5, for a very dense demonstration. We use the following size of 3 people per square meter, which we consider to be the minimum density of people present at the rally. Based on the area demonstrators occupied and the maximum possible density, a safe estimate for the size of the demonstration is 75,000 people.
Another chapter that comes to the fore, once again, on the occasion of the events at the Court of Appeals, is the impunity of the authorities controlled by the Minister of Citizen Protection. The Hellenic Police is involved in incidents of impunity frequently as are the Greek Army and the port authorities. No investigation has been carried out by the competent authorities for the unprovoked attack against the crowd, apart from a Sworn Administrative Examination (E.D.E.) for the brutal verbal attack reported by the Leader of MeRA25 Yanis Varoufakis. The same practice is repeated in a number of cases of public concern which involve public authorities, these are often characterized by a lack of accountability or transparency. A glaring example of police impunity is the establishment of the committee for police violence (26/11/2019), led by Nikos Alivizatos. Since May 4th (2020), the committee’s conclusions regarding the conducted E.D.E. are in the hands of Chrysochoidis, who refuses to make them public.
In addition, allegations, reports and evidence of the role of the government’s refugee policy in both the events in Evros in February 2020 and the deteriorating situation in the Aegean, do not seem to mobilize the state apparatus, but rather they lead to silencing or conscious denial regarding the government’s tactics. The governments’ mercilessness is also reflected in a revealing video published by Der Spiegel, which records a frame-by-frame migrant pushback operation in Evros. This report inherently disputes the firm position of the Greek authorities and the government that no illegal deportations take place in Evros. This statement is constantly repeated by the Minister of Immigration and Asylum Notis Mitarakis, together with the Deputy Minister of Immigration and Asylum George Koumoutsakos.
Allegations and evidence of illegal deportations in the Aegean by the Greek authorities have reached the highest political bodies of the European Union. In July, Chrysochoidis, Mitarakis, and Koumoutsakos were called to provide answers regarding the refugee situation and its handling by the Greek authorities in the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). No investigations have been launched into the illegal deportations from Lesvos and Samos, with the Coast Guard repeatedly denying any involvement in such illegal actions.
To conclude, it is clear by now that the Greek government prefers to turn a blind eye to such accusations and does not feel obliged to even conduct an in-depth investigation on what is being reported both nationally and internationally.