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Eyewitness account: The violent suppression of the protests opposing the “North Macedonia” deal

As Tsipras and Zaev celebrated the signing of the “North Macedonia” deal in a picturesque lakeside setting, hell on earth was unfolding in the surrounding region as the same riot police SYRIZA once promised to abolish, violently attacked demonstrators

Riot police fire tear gas at demonstrators gathered in the mountain roads leading to the Lake Prespes region, where Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras and the prime minister of "FYROM" Zoran Zaev were signing the "North Macedonia" accord, June 17, 2018.

Editor’s note: The following is a first-hand account provided to us by independent journalist George Adalis and translated by Evans Aggelisopoulos. The account concerns the protests which took place in the Prespes region, where the Tsipras-Zaev “North Macedonia” accord was formally signed, and the violent, brutal police response to the demonstrators who had gathered in the region and who attempted to approach Prespes. This is a rural, mountainous, isolated region with few roads in or out, which is probably the real reason this location was selected for the signing ceremony, and not the “symbolism” of the region’s location at the frontier between the two countries.

Here, it bears noting that this account discusses the violent actions of the very same riot police which SYRIZA, prior to its initial election in January 2015, had promised to abolish. Not only have the riot police not been abolished, but they continue to operate with reckless abandon, violently attacking senior citizens, women, children, and anyone else that crosses their path except, coincidentally, the “known-unknown” instigators of violence at most demonstrations: hooded youth who may or may not be Greek and who have often been seen mingling with the very same riot police which are purportedly there to “maintain order.” It should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of logic and common sense who these hooded hoodlums are operating on behalf of, and why they always seem to evade arrest.

One final comment: while protesters were being violently suppressed by the riot police which SYRIZA had once promised to disband, most of the “mainstream media,” including almost the entirety of the foreign press corps operating in Greece, “saw nothing and heard nothing.” Instead, abandoning any pretense of objectivity, they hailed the Tsipras-Zaev “North Macedonia” deal, continuously described Tsipras’ Greece as a “new” (and better) Greece, brazenly characterized – via their Twitter accounts — protesters and opponents of the agreement as “fascists” (which happens to be the exact same rhetoric employed by members of the SYRIZA government) and turned a blind eye to the violence; quite ironic, when considering that this same press corps in large part celebrated SYRIZA and its now-forgotten promises back in 2015…

Prespes is a magical and beautiful and historic place which has been forever condemned by Tsipras’ traveling troupe, which has acted to destroy the hearts of the people in this country. I wanted to go there with my friends to demonstrate against the decision which he took in a dictatorial manner; a prime minister that lied to the people with his pre-electoral pledges. We didn’t want to hit anyone, we didn’t want to fight anyone, we didn’t want to go into conflict with anyone! We wanted to shout peacefully that the agreement of Tsipras with the wine maker of [Thessaloniki mayor and winery owner] Yiannis Boutaris, “FYROM” prime minister Zoran Zaev, is a sellout and a betrayal which may not only lead to the dissolution of Greece but the whole of the Balkans!

What fools! We believed we had democracy! We believed we were free! We believed we had a left-wing government which promotes progressivism and freedom of expression. How foolish!

We approached the village of Vigla and the ski center located there and realized that cars were backed up at a great distance. We had to stop 4 kilometers away from the village and continue on foot, with hundreds of others. As we arrived in Vigla, we saw thousands of people in the ski center and a stage with speakers where the organizers of the rally spoke alongside some Church leaders. This was a waste of time. Many people had sat and were eating souvlaki.

“Did we come here to eat souvlaki” I asked the organizers. They informed me that 5 kilometers further down the riot police were blocking the road towards Prespes! I spoke to the police chief, who confirmed this information to me. I asked him to allow me to go with my car so as to cover the issue as a journalist, but he didn’t allow it. Alongside him was a police deputy who actively obstructed me from performing my job.

That’s when the first phone call came in. In the village of Pisoderi the riot police were beating up people and throwing tear gas canisters! I gathered as many people as I could and we left on foot! A thousand of us walked for over an hour amidst deadly heat, to an unknown place.

When we finally arrived we found another 4-5,000 people there. The first group we encountered were red and covered in chemicals! In Pisoderi, the riot police had taken positions on the sides of the hill and fired chemicals and fake bomblets from above towards the demonstrators below. I took a pair of binoculars and counted more than 40 riot police, who were located even on treetops. Smoke was everywhere.

We walked one kilometer from the center of the village to the outskirts. Others were coming and others were leaving. On the streets were young children laying on the pavement, attempting to recover from the attacks of tear gas.

On the outskirts, there was a major roadblock on the sidewalk and a few vans of riot police on the farming road parallel to the central road, at a height of 20-30 meters, preventing cars from bypassing the police blockade. They did not stop there though. For four hours, the riot police beat people up!

I can attest that the riot police were never provoked by the people. Most of them were exhausted from the walking and were asking the riot police to be allowed through to go to Prespes, another 20 kilometers away. The riot police were never attacked nor were they provoked by the demonstrators!

Instead, from the farmers’ path on the side of the hill, every now and again the riot police threw tear gas on the heads of people. At one point, people dressed with normal civilian clothes who were behind the riot police came forward and threw stones and pieces of wood from on high, to the riot police that were on the road. That occurred first time at 9 am and it has been captured on video and I saw it with my own eyes. By 1 pm, such attacks occurred twice more. Men with civilian clothes behind one set of riot police to attack another bunch of riot police who were lower down! They then hid behind the riot police on the hill! What does the “leftist” Minister of Interior Nikos Toskas have to say about this? What will he say about the videos and photos circulating on social media as to who provoked who?

[Foreign minister] Nikos Kotzias’ pronouncements were a joke and lies! Once the first rocks were thrown by the four citizens who were hiding behind the backs of the riot police, the riot police began to fire upon those located on the road below. They attacked with no concern, hitting old people and even children! Many fell and were trampled by the Praetorian guards attacks and I saw 20 injured, three of which were seriously hurt.

Not only did the riot police from below launch chemicals. I have covered demonstrations for almost three decades and have never seen such conduct.

As is normal, the youth who saw what was happening filled the streets and started to climb on the sides of the hills with the aim of grabbing the four citizens that threw rocks to the riot police. But what sort of citizens are we speaking of exactly? These were paramilitary state officials in civilian clothes.

That’s where everything devolved into chaos. I am presenting my personal eyewitness account that the riot police would hit anyone who reached the top of the hill with clubs and their shields. It should be mentioned here that the youth who were climbing the deal were facing a steep downward slope below. This fact did not stop the ruthless riot police, who fired tear gas canisters to injure people. On the right side of the hill a riot police brute forcefully shoved a young lad, who fell down after having dropped like a sack, rolling down the side of the hill for 20 meters. He just remained there and tens of people went to help him.

I really don’t know if that riot police officer who pushed the young man was a human, even if he was Greek! Notably, the riot police never spoke amongst themselves! Not a word. Their eyes, however, belied a venomous hatred! I didn’t hear one word uttered from their mouths for five hours. Not one…

Street battles continued in this area, and the riot police fired tons of tear gas.

Along with my friend Nick I reached the front of the line of protesters, facing the riot police, and shouted “wait for the old people to leave. Stop hitting them anymore. I am a journalist. Someone will be killed!”

Whilst I had my hands high and I told them we were going to the side of the hill there, and while we did nothing which could be interpreted as a confrontational attack the riot police threw two tear gas canisters at my feet and four more in front of us! We had been cut off from the crowd which was around 100 meters behind us. No one threw a stone towards the riot police. People were in retreat, simply chanting slogans.

In my attempt to escape from the cloud of tear gas and to see which way the wind is blowing so as to go in the opposite direction I was hit at least three times in the back and on my legs and without breath I ran towards the crowds. It took me about 20 minutes to be able to see properly as my eyes were blown up and hurt from the tear gas! Another two hours were needed for my chest to clear from the tear gas!

Whilst all the people had left fully from the blockade and they were in the village, suddenly at around 3 pm the riot police entered the village and started throwing tear gas and hitting people. As a result, women and children were taken inside the cafe, where one observed a chaotic scene, with children crying and old people suffering!

Why was this attack by the riot police required inside Pisoderi, Mr. Toska, when you already knew there were injured people in the village? What was the aim? Didn’t you realize there were already enough beatings outside the village? Why wasn’t there an ambulance to transport the three seriously injured people?

You are all liars! From the prime minister to all of the party lackeys!

No one provoked the riot police. Instead they pleaded to be allowed to pass on foot. No one attacked the riot police on the road below. The riot police drowned the people with chemicals so as to dissolve them! The chaos then continued when those hiding behind the riot police on the hills began throwing rocks, with the aim of dissolving the peaceful gathering below. It was a provocation manufactured to become a criminal attack. Everything else is made up.

There is something else that I would like to know as well: I had asked to speak to a prosecutor, in order to be allowed to pass the blockade and go on foot for Prespes as part of my journalistic work. However, I was told during the blockade that there was no prosecutor!

Since when are the roads blockaded with no prosecutor to oversee and to give orders?

A whole operation is required so as to be released from the hell created by Alexis Tsipras in Pisoderi, but it was worth it.

As we learned, you aren’t the same as those who governed before you. No, you are much worse!

You deserve some credit though, as you are uniting us! You are cultivating unity and cohesion amongst ourselves.

Alexis Tsipras, you will find us on the streets! You have become a tyrant!

The hell created in Pisoderi and which was censored by all the establishment media laid the foundations for us to “burn” the traitorous agreement which you signed, and the poison you fired at us so as to not appear to your bosses that the Greeks are demonstrating!

Greece doesn’t accept sold out marionettes like you! In Pisoderi you united us. Unified and alone, we will win.

Postscript

As for you own followers, Mr. Tsipras, who you sent to weaken the opposition of the people to the agreement, they remained comfortably in Vigla, circulating speeches and eating souvlaki while we were being bombarded with tear gas. One wonders whether they were paid for their faithful service…

Opinions expressed are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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