The protest against the education bill in Athens last Thursday was marred by a regrettable incident. A police officer fired his gun into the air to disperse a group of protesters who had been causing damage to the Ministry of the Aegean. But what was worse than the actual firing of the shot was…
The protest against the education bill in Athens last Thursday was marred by a regrettable incident.
A police officer fired his gun into the air to disperse a group of protesters who had been causing damage to the Ministry of the Aegean. But what was worse than the actual firing of the shot was the fact that the leadership of the Greek police lied, once again, to its employers – that is the Greek people.
The shooting itself may have been provoked by the tension and difficulty of the moment but the lies subsequently uttered by police officials were intentional and this is rather more concerning.
According to the announcement issued by the press office of the Attica police headquarters: “The Aegean Ministry was attacked by about 50 people who used Molotov cocktail bombs, wooden poles and other objects to destroy windows, and hurled stones and bags of dirt. They also destroyed the ministry’s sentry box and threatened the guard who had been on duty with metal and wooden poles. The guard, in his effort to defend himself, used his service pistol to fire a warning shot, as the law allows.”
Unfortunately for the police, however, someone videotaped the incident and the images were aired on all the television channels. It became clear that the police’s announcement was only half-true. Yes, the protesters vandalized property – an act for which they deserve to be punished – but the video does not indicate that they had been threatening the safety of the guard just before the shot was fired, which would have justified the action. The best possible scenario is that the guard lost his nerve and fired, thankfully, into the air.
But, again, it is not the guard’s action that is so concerning but the subsequent stance of his superiors. And their approach is not doing the government any favors, especially at a time when the state is seeking ways of tackling the chronic crisis in the education sector.
Let us hope that the government is not pursuing similar tactics with the police because a few ill-considered lies can annihilate the efforts of many serious politicians.
Lies help certain individuals shirk their responsibilities, in the short term; in the long term, however, they create major risks. First, they spread lawlessness. They answer the unpunished violations of protesters with violations by authorities. Secondly, when the mistakes of state mechanisms are covered up with lies, this creates an incentive for more, and bigger, lies. If Thursday’s shooting goes unpunished, some other guard will think he can also get away with firing a shot during a moment of tension, a shot that could injure someone.
KATHIMERINI English Edition, 07/03/2007