Fanning the flames

The recent rampage in the upmarket Kolonaki district confirmed the already widespread impression that the country’s police force is not in a position to guarantee the safety of citizens or their property. Faced with an uproar, the government opted for the easy solution: stiffer penalties for hoodies that commit offenses and prosecution of those who verbally insult police officers. However, the success of these paramilitary-style groups is not the lack of legislation. It’s the failure of the police to dismantle them. No amount of new legislation can remedy operational weakness. The new regulations will create more problems than the ones they will solve. If the past is any guide, the measures will most likely result in the arrest of hot-tempered protesters and will do nothing to neutralize «minor» terrorist groups. Instead of isolating the organized groups of hoodies, it will push more unruly protesters into their arms. The problems are not just the Exarchia district or unruly youth. Some of the ideas coming from post-anarchist and anti-establishment ideologues may be viewed as wealth for society rather than its enemy. After all, these same people strongly criticize those who make a «profession» out of violence. The dividing line is defined by deeds not ideas. The phenomenon is not some primitive and distorted movement against the state. It’s also a sign of political illiteracy. Rebellious youth drawn by the «attraction of destruction,» who perceive the raids as some kind of rite of passage, quickly turn into experts in violence. History shows that it’s only a matter of time before such paramilitary-style groups slide into activities that are closer to guerrilla warfare. All this is fueling insecurity among the public and, in turn, leads to the curtailment of civil liberties. Ironically, many pundits who are now playing down the magnitude of the problem, misguided by their ideological righteousness, are in fact encouraging the crackdown they fear.

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