Monday, 19 March 2012

"Self-proclaimed" guardians of public order

Lately, more and more often different organizations appear calling for the establishment of volunteer corps, to "protect citizens, which the State has left to the mercy of criminals." In various websites they call Greeks to join their ranks and to undergo the appropriate training in order to be ready to deal with the chaos that is "knocking on the door." These are dangerous developments, as also defined by the Minister of Civil Protection Michalis Chrysohoidis, who in connection with the establishment of volunteer corps said that according to the constitution only police and the relevant agencies are responsible for security of citizens. "Nobody else has a right to use weapons, nor do justice", he said. In connection with this matter last Thursday prosecutor Nikos Andonarakos ordered a quick pre-trial proceedings on the activities of these "organizations".
The whole situation reminds old times. Many believe that today's events are similar to those that appeared in Germany in the 30s of last century, before Hitler took power. Others note that in times of crisis, increasing xenophobia and the rise of extreme right-wing forces, which are its main exponent, are natural consequences. Finally, many people point out that when a country sleeps, the parastate wakes. And so maybe we experienced the hatching of a snake egg?
One of the groups that appeared claiming that it "will protect citizens from criminals" and is at gunpoint of prosecutors is called Patriotic volunteer squad. Its representative is George Anestopoulos who also signs himself as "the hawk of the Aegean".
“The Patriotic volunteer squad is one of hundreds of groups of reservists, who in one way or another, continue their military training, even in civilian life", he said.
As he explains, the ambition of the organization in time of war is "to provide organized volunteer civilian corps of men and women who will be able to support the protection of civilians against foreign troops." He stresses, however that "it was never and will never be part of our plans to participate in the repression of popular protests."
Anestopoulos’ views are strongly reminiscent of those of conspiracy theories. He assured that "we do not intend to play the role of self-styled saviors, but at the critical moment we prefer to be ready to protect our families (and fellow citizens) in a war that some “anti-Greeks" are preparing to start against our people and not just be killed, at a time when the state shows every day its inability to protect its people."

In connection with the training members of the organization undergo, he explains that it is a basic military knowledge. "But surely the mode is that of a regular army. Every one is here in accordance to their specialty. And naturally, the most capable and trained form a selected group of Special Forces", he stresses.
According Anestopoulos, the biggest threat is the excessive number of illegal immigrants. When asked whether Greeks should arm themselves in order to cope with rising crime, as was suggested recently by the leader of the far-right party LAOS George Karadzaferis, Anestopoulos replied: "Sure, but under some conditions. If someone has a fragile psyche, of course, they cannot and should not bear arms, and this can be diagnosed. And of course, citizens must be carefully educated concerning the bearing and use of weapons before being allowed to have a weapon for self defense."
To the remark that if citizens take the law into their own hands, there is a threat that society will slip into uncontrollable chaos, he replied: "Unfortunately, when the state appears unable to protect its citizens and their property, such "slips" are inevitable", and added that there is a proverb: "Better be lead by policemen than priests."
Neighborhood volunteer corps
Different mindset has the Hellenic Center for Arms Control, which calls for the creation of a movement called "Guardians of the neighborhood” (neighborhood watch).
As explained by the Director of the Center Theodoros Lyolyos, associate professor of nuclear physics and applications in the military school for cadets, crime has taken uncontrollable size and therefore he considers it necessary for the "creation of groups of citizens to patrol neighborhoods and to control crime in the area with the help of the police. Our elderly and weak fellow citizens can contact these units if they become victims of crime and members of the team will immediately notify the police or knock the old man’s door in order to drive the criminals away."
Theodoros Lyolyos says that members of the squad will be allowed to bear arms or to come into conflict with criminals and their presence will only aim to prevent crime.
"If we were the ones in power, we would have put a lot of mines in Evros”

Extreme right party "Golden Dawn" distinguished its position from the one of the "volunteer corps", although residents of Agios Panteleymonas neighborhood talk of "patrols" of its members.
If the occurrence of volunteer corps raises questions and prompts fears, the activity "Golden Dawn" Party is to divide residents in areas where its presence is strong. Its representatives said they "have no connection with the volunteer corps." As they say, this is a political party with specific body, positions and activities.
Center of its "operations" are neighborhoods around Agios Panteleymonas and Attiki Square, which in recent years have become a kind of battleground between the forces of the extreme right and left parties and organizations for the rights of immigrants.
“Solidarity” only for Greeks
As explained by Ilias Kasidiaris, member of Political Council of the organization and parliament member candidate from the Attica region, in recent years the way people perceive "Golden Dawn" seems to have changed. "We have not changed at all, but people have changed their attitude towards us. The crisis has acted as a means of awakening for many Greeks. In other words, with the decrease of income they begain to understand what they did not understand for many years - that the system is corrupt and full of problems and acts to the detriment of the people and the nation", he said.
He believes that the change in opinion of the citizens towards “Golden Dawn” is due to the "social work" that the organization develops. "Over the last year we created a Movement for Solidarity for the Greeks, through which we collect voluntary donations from Greek citizens and give them the Greek families who are experiencing difficulties. This applies only to Greek citizens, not foreigners. This is the part we differ in from similar activities of other organizations," he said.
On the other hand Kasidiaris believes that the political system is "more dangerous than the illegal immigrants. If the country was run by real Greeks, we would have had no problems with illegal immigrants. There would be none in the whole country. We would have been applying the laws and all illegal immigrants would have been kicked out of the country ", he said, adding that: "If we ever become Government, we will once again put mines along the border with Turkey." The fact that there is a global campaign to eliminate mines used against civilian populations, does not even interest him.
What do the citizens of Agios Panteleymonas say
The opinions of the citizens regarding "Golden Dawn" are quite different.  Residents in the area, both Greeks, immigrants and leftist organizations, are accusing “Golden Dawn” members that they have imposed terror, mainly on those unfortunate enough to have darker skin or just come in their way.
As mentioned by Yiannis G., who works in a cafe in the area, "they move in groups and virtually control the region with knowledge of the police. Especially when it gets dark, you see them circling around with black jackets and patrol the streets. Very often we hear of attacks, to immigrants, who do not dare to go out at night.”
Saeed comes from Iraq and has been living here for eight years, working at a restaurant. “At night we are afraid to go out on the streets. I know many immigrants who were severely beaten by members of the organization", he said. When asked why they have not turned to the police, he replied that even if they do, the most likely consequence would be to deport them from the country because they are here illegally.
On the other hand, Maria G., who works in a haberdashery near Attiki Square, says that the organization's presence has changed the balance of power in the region. "Until recently, namely the Greeks did not dare to go out in the surrounding streets. If you have not lived here you would not understand what I’m telling you. Before I was shaking and expecting that every time the door opens an intruder will come in and rob me but now I feel more secure and peaceful", she explains.
When asked whether the fact that "Golden Dawn" is a far-right party scares her, she answers: “I do not care about their political views.  The Left could have come get rid of immigrants as well. In that case I would have voted for them, just like in the last local elections I voted for "Golden Dawn". "

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