Athens. Greece. On Tuesday 22 June there was a very large — thousands large — feminist march through the Petralona neighborhood of Athens Greece.
It was in response to an incident in which a woman hired to clean a house was imprisoned and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her “employer.” The neighbors called the police but the police declined to intervene. They are always ready to raid a squat or attack people in a public square, but cringe away from breaching the door of a middle-class home, so the rapist was able to escape and remains at large.
This horror also unfolded in the shadow of an ongoing headline-grabbing case in which a “respectable” Greek man, an airline pilot, murdered his (much younger) wife and then said she was killed by immigrants, a calculated racist ploy which Greek police not only agreed with, blaming “hardened immigrant criminals” on national TV, but acted on by kidnapping an undocumented guy from the country of Georgia and beating him for days in an effort to make him confess.
It seems almost too obvious to state, but the above is an example of the intersectional ways gender is interlocked with class, race and nationalism, as well as the key role the police play in maintaining these brutal hierarchies.
As with so many incidents of gendered violence, fatal or otherwise, the perpetrator was that most deadly thing: “the man of the house.” Graffiti spotted in the neighborhood summed him up: “Good kid. Pilot. Orthodox Christian. Femicide.”
The police responded to the revelation of the husband’s guilt by going back on TV and giving other men who might want to kill their wives advice on how they could get away with it better than he did. This is not a joke or hyperbole.
While mainstream news coverage of both these cases focused on what might be called a “carceral” angle — why weren’t these men ARRESTED and LOCKED UP? — the women of Athens have gathered in tremendous numbers multiple nights in a row to express not only their outrage but more direct, systemic solutions to the campaign of violence waged daily against women.
The march on Tuesday night began with speakers and chants. Prior actions had already heavily coated the surrounding blocks with militant feminist graffiti in both Greek and English. Once the march got moving, the amount of graffiti became so intense that artists towards the back of the march had trouble finding any wall space! There were lots of feminist, anarcha-feminist, anti-police and queer slogans and symbols. A few that I noticed were DEAD MEN DON’T RAPE, KILL RAPISTS, ABORT PATRIARCHY, ABORT CAPITALISM, THE POLICE DON’T KEEP ME SAFE – MY FRIENDS DO, and the immortal line INSTEAD OF “I LOVE YOU,” SAY “FUCK THE POLICE.”
I was also moved by the graffiti reading LET’S ALL BECOME INSURGENTS, ROBBERS, SABOTEURS.
There were countless stickers and flyers as well as ferocious chants (in Greek). Following are translations of some of these superb chants:
“Patriarchy rapes and kills, on the street and at home. We will burn the state and patriarchy.”
“Glorious Greek man, on your grave we’ll hold the biggest festival.”
“The rapist will not come from the East, he will come from Ekali and Koponi.” (Greek neighborhoods)
“This, this, this is right: kicks with 12cm heels to smarten you up.”
“Die, Greece, so we can live. To hell with the family! To hell with the homeland!”
“Two meters, two meters underground, there is a home for every rapist.”
“Gay, trans, lesbians, priestesses of disgrace. We are proudly the shame of the nation.”
“In the streets, in the squares, in all the neighborhoods: immigrant women, you are not alone!”
MAT, the riot police, nipped at the heels of the march, but there were no direct clashes, though a few participants practiced the quintessentially Greek multitask of jogging away from police while hand-rolling a cigarette.
Women doing graffiti is not an exotic sight here but the percentage of the overall spraypainting (and ATM smashing, and flare lighting, etc) done by women in this demo was at or near 100%. It was moving to see women handing each other spray cans or, if someone ran out mid-message, another woman jumping in to finish the slogan.
While the march had a strong anarchist presence, it wasn’t exclusively anarchist; there were communists, autonomists and others, and there were some discussions among participants about what should or shouldn’t be targeted– i.e. whether “local businesses” should be spared redecoration. These were conversations between women; men who tried to offer opinions were dissuaded.
The march finished in Merkouri Square, where in 2018 a comrade named Dimitris Armakolas died hanging a banner in support of a political prisoner: https://itsgoingdown.org/on-the-passing-of-anarchist-comrade-dimitris-armakolas/
When the march concluded, there was a beautiful burning dumpster in the middle of the street– a recycling dumpster, which eventually melted and collapsed entirely.
Considering the useless consumer-politic distraction “recycling” offers in the face of climate apocalypse, a recycling dumpster getting torched provides a serviceable closing analogy for the response this large, powerful demonstration offered to the ancient and ongoing war against women: rather than reformism and state solutions, burn shit down.