The silence of the lambs

The Greek police played a leading role in two incidents which occurred in the last few days. In both cases, their actions were no cause for bragging. In the first incident in Kolonos, in western central Athens, two police officers decided that the most decent way to transfer a suspect to the police station – after they tried to knock some sense into him with their truncheons – was to bundle him into the trunk of their patrol car like a suitcase. They did not seem concerned about the fact that he was covered in blood. Moreover, the fact that he was a foreigner, an Albanian, seemed to allow them a free hand. In the second incident, a drug addict suffering withdrawal symptoms managed to disarm the special guards and shortly afterward fire at the prime minister’s residence in Kolonaki, while policemen searched for their mobile phones to inform the immediate response squad as they had no radios. Parties made incessant remarks over the Kolonaki incident. The government began harping along the usual lines, promising to cut to the bone of the issue, while the conservative opposition (which, suffering from power withdrawal syndrome, always puts on an exalted face when it actually ought to feel jointly responsible) resumed its own pet peeve about government paralysis. But, as regards the Kolonos incident, the usually talkative orators in both parties found nothing to say. First, because «we’ve had enough with foreigners» (no ambitious politician wishes to turn against a popular mantra) and, second, because police officers vote too, and it would be unwise to reproach them. The Kolonos incident does not wield the heavy symbolism of the Kolonaki rampage. But it is not of marginal importance, primarily because the silence of the officials confirmed that violence against foreigners is seen as normal. Had the policemen stuffed a Greek in the trunk, half the deputy-lawyers would rush to defend him in court.