“We demand that our constitutional right to march is upheld,” leftist Mera25 chief Yanis Varoufakis declared in Parliament on Thursday, reacting to the government’s decision to ban the customary November 17 rally marking the Athens Polytechnic uprising. “We will be there; I defy you to strike us. We will be there, in our masks, keeping our distance, just a few members of our parliamentary group… We will show the people… what responsible disobedience means,” he added with almost lyrical fervor.
Apart from the fact that given the size of his party, “a few members” is all he can muster, we already know firsthand what his idea of “responsible disobedience” looks like, even though he may have called it a “proud negotiation” back when he was finance minister. Just as the entire world warned us of the abyss lying ahead, our chief negotiator with the bailout institutions stood in his untucked shirt declaring: “We constantly hear, ‘If you don’t sign on the dotted line there is going to be Armageddon.’ My answer is, ‘Let it happen!’ There is no fallback plan. That is my plan B” (The Guardian, February 13, 2015). We all know how that turned out – and what it cost us.
The third observation, which relates to all young children, is that if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Let’s take the first lockdown in the spring, for example, and the description of an incident by the mayor of Aegina, Yiannis Zorbas, whereby Varoufakis refused to submit to an inspection at the island’s port. “He slowed down but did not come to a halt and said, ‘I’m an MP.’ The port police officer replied: ‘Sir, we’re carrying out an inspection. May I see your papers?’ [Varoufakis] responded, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ and proceeded to the exit.” Being a revolutionary is easy when it comes at no personal cost.
The fourth point concerns which right to march, exactly, Varoufakis is demanding to be upheld. According to Article 11 of the Constitution: “Outdoor assemblies may be prohibited by a reasoned police authority decision, in general if a serious threat to public security is imminent, and in a specific area, if a serious disturbance of social and economic life is threatened, as specified by law.”
So, there is a law that allows public gatherings to be prohibited. If Varoufakis doesn’t like this law, he can ask Parliament to change it. He can challenge it in court. Constitutional rights are not upheld by flexing your muscles and throwing your weight around. There are rules even for that. And they’re democratic.