Safety test

The government needed evidence that last week’s Cabinet reshuffle had boosted its ratings. So it conducted a test. It obviously thought that the selection of Aris Spiliotopoulos as education minister and the appointment of Antonis Samaras as culture minister required no further testing of our nerves and political stamina. But the now two-headed Ministry of Interior and Public Order still needed to be tested. So when the hordes of policemen turned up in the streets of Athens at 3 p.m. last Friday, you could easily sense they were sent out to «reclaim the city» or, worse, to «occupy an enemy city.» Because that’s what’s it’s all about: The state apparatus views Athens as an enemy city and the security forces – the forces of law and order as it were – have to seize control. Security, law and order. Yet another sound bite for public consumption. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has said that «any deviations will be investigated.» His attention focused on the celebrated return of Christos Markoyiannakis to the Cabinet as deputy interior minister, Pavlopoulos had no time to watch the limited footage of «legal brutality» filmed before journalists were violently pushed away. So the minister probably missed out on a chance to check the events that counter his assurance that «the police operated within the limits of the law, in defense against those who attack the institutions.» Pavlopoulos failed to see that the «legal violence» exercised in a brutal fashion on Friday matched the standards set in the days of Constantine Mitsotakis («You are the state») or Vyron Polydoras («You are the Praetorians»), when the police force shored up its repertoire with flower boxes, the torture of migrants and ricocheting bullets. Now, we have lawyers assaulted, elderly ladies in headscarves who are mistaken for hoodies, students under siege in an apartment block, journalists and cameramen pepper-sprayed. «Public safety» is top priority said the government’s top dogs. Oddly, we feel even more unsafe.

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