‘unprecedented’ damage and destruction in protests, riots in Greece, 12th February 2012

Media and crisis manager Stratos Safioleas (@stratosathens) judged last night’s destruction ‘unprecedented‘. Here, I have gathered together as many of the events as I could, listed in order of place: so far, Agrinio, Athens, Corfu, Herakleion, Patras, Thessaloniki, Trikala and Volos.

Moreover, I’ve grouped them by target as well: parliamentary/party/bureaucratic property; police property; banks; other commercial property; cultural venues; media organisations; personal private property; and other objects.

The destruction has been blamed on anarchist protesters, and on agents provocateurs; and I will try to probe this, and the destruction of cultural property, in detail in another post. But my analysis suggests that banks were the primary targets for destruction (even ahead of politicians’ offices). Still, there are many as-yet-undocumented incidents; there were at least 170 acts of destruction in Athens alone. I would be very grateful for any further information.

Update (16th February 2012): rioters ‘torched’ the entrance of the Numismatic Museum and smashed the windows of a Greek Resistance memorial. These are ugly acts of cultural violence; it is fortunate that the arsonists’ ignorance is only equalled by their incompetence.

Summary of riots’ targets

Athens’ Deputy Mayor, Andreas Varelas, believes that rioters targeted ‘emblematic buildings‘. The cultural policy chief of right-wing coalition party New Democracy, Thanassis Davakis, claims that ‘[c]riminals targeted all that was best in the city of Athens, its neoclassical monuments’.

Of the 69 targets in my records, I believe the rioters damaged or destroyed:

  • 22 “general” commercial properties;
  • 21 banks;
  • 13 parliamentary/party/bureaucratic buildings;
  • 9 cultural venues;
  • at least 2 police stations;
  • 1 public service; and
  • 1 journalists’ office.

So, nearly a third of all targets were banks; more banks were targeted than government offices. (Technically, more “general” commercial properties were targeted than banks; but banks are one specific institution, whereas the “general” commercial properties encompass a variety.) The majority of targets were either banks, the politicians who support the banks, or the police who protect both the politicians and the banks.

Generally, Greek rioters did not target small businesses, and they did not loot desirable/saleable consumer goods. With much success (considering the floods of tear gas and outbursts of physical violence), they confronted the police; and they smashed the physical embodiments of the international banking industry and the Greek political classes, which threaten them and their families.

Agrinio

Parliamentary/party/bureaucratic property

In the small, western city of Agrinio, youths ‘smashed to pieces [έκαναν γιαλιάκαρφιά]’ the office of the Minister for Development, Competitiveness and Shipping, Thanos Moraitis.

Athens

ITV News’ Martin Geissler observed ‘[m]assive destruction‘ in Greece’s capital, Athens. Mercury News has a striking photo gallery of riots and fires. Apparently, ta Nea published an infographic map of destruction of the wounded city of Athens (Πληγωμένη πόλη η Αθήνα – Ο χάρτης της καταστροφής); but curiously it did not put it online.

According to the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 45 banks, shops, etc. were completely destroyed, ‘totally burned down‘; and 125 others (70 clothes shops, 29 unidentified shops, 17 bank branches, 5 shopping centres and 4 bookshops) were severely damaged. Even (photo link) ATMs/cash machines and bus stops; benches, terraces, balusters, paving stones and water features were hit. (Contrary reports of incomplete or confused data made immediate analysis difficult.(1))

Parliamentary/party/bureaucratic property

The offices of the Directorate for Restoration of Modern and Contemporary Monuments (on Ermou; η Διεύθυνση Αναστήλωσης Νεώτερων και Σύγχρονων Μνημείων), which is part of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (το Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού και Τουρισμού), suffered ‘minor damage [[μ]ικρής έκτασης ζημιές]’.

Update (17th February 2012): rioters stormed Kotzia town hall in order to burn it down; but riot police ‘rout[ed] [προσάγουν]’ them before they could. (I only mention this to challenge any rumours. It also shows that rioters tried to target political property, but were sometimes unable to destroy it.)

Police property

  • Unknown persons attacked Acropolis police station with Molotov cocktails and stones.
  • They did the same to Exarcheia police station.

(Also, (photo link) DIAS motorcycle police bikes were burned.)

(There were also reports of fires in the entrance to the Metro station at Syntagma; but they seem to have been defensive fires rather than destructive ones.)

Banks

  • A historic building, the Alfa Bank/Alpha Bank (at the junction of 16 Athinas and 17 Voreos), suffered ‘serious damage [σοβαρές ζημιές]’.
  • The Eurobank on the corner of Akadimias and Benaki was burned down.
  • The Eurobank on Korai Street was burned down.
  • The Marfin Bank on Athens Street was burned down.
  • Another registered ‘landmark [διατηρητέο]’ historic building, the Bank of Cyprus on the junction of 13-15 Athinas and Kakourgiodikeiou, was burned out (see photo below); its roof collapsed.
  • The Hellenic Post Bank (Ταχυδρομικό Ταμιευτήριο) on Athens Street was burned out; its roof collapsed.
  • Alfa Bank/Alpha Bank on Panepistimiou was burned out.
  • The Commercial Bank at the junction of Syggrou and Dionysiou Aeropagitou was burned out.
  • There was a fire at the (bank and) headquarters of the National Bank on Aiolou.
  • Update (18th February 2012, with photo links): rioters cut through the metal shutters of the (previously-unidentified) Commercial Bank (Εμπορική Τράπεζα) at the junction of Ippokratous and Akadimias, smashed its door, and torched it. (Hat tip, Thalis (@th4lis), who published a whole set of photos of attacked buildings.)
  • Attica Bank in Monastiraki Square was looted and burned (hat tip, Mr. P (@greenpickles36) for his first report).
  • Another one of the seriously damaged ‘historic buildings [ιστορικά κτίρια]‘ was the five-floor building on the corner of Pesmatzoglou and 45 Panepistimiou, which used to house the Popular Bank (Laiki Bank).
  • Update (17th February 2012): the Alpha Bank (at 37 Panepistimiou and 10 Korai) suffered ‘serious damage [σοβαρές ζημιές]’. It is housed in a historic building, the General Accounting Office (το Μέγαρο του Γενικού Λογιστηρίου).

In the 5th May 2010 riots, rioters petrol bombed Marfin Bank, and three workers burned to death inside. Last night, three, or fifteen, more workers narrowly escaped the same fate. They had taken refuge in the second basement of Alpha Bank; but firefighters rescued (‘extricated [απεγκλώβισαν]’) them.

They were truly, incredibly lucky:

The city centre was almost inaccessible for fire engines and ambulances because of improvised barricades, and the fire department made an appeal to the demonstrators to open the roads. Fire engines were attacked and two firefighters were wounded.

[Το κέντρο ήταν σχεδόν απρόσιτο για τα πυροσβεστικά οχήματα και τα ασθενοφόρα λόγω των αυτοσχέδιων οδοφραγμάτων, και η πυροσβεστική απηύθυνε έκκληση στους διαδηλωτές να ανοίξουν τους δρόμους. Πυροσβεστικά οχήματα δέχτηκαν επίθεση και δύο πυροσβέστες τραυματίστηκαν.]

RegularGrrrl called bullshit on that narrative though:

Naturally, there were many more non-destructive actions, too. For example, the Central Bank was renamed in graffiti, ‘the Bank of Berlin‘.

Other commercial property

Shops were looted and burned.

  • Indeed, the (photo link) Atrium shopping centre at the junction of Xarilaou Trikoupi and Feidiou was reduced to a burned-out shell.
  • Protesters burned the electronic goods shop Germanos (on Benaki).
  • They burned the furniture shop Neoset on Benaki.
  • They burned the clothes shop Zara.
  • They burned the Starbucks cafe between Panepistimiou Street and Syntagma Square (photo via S. Cosgrove (@s_cosgrove)).
  • Update (15th February 2012): Sprider Stores’ central office (containing its clothes warehouse) was ‘damaged by fire‘.
  • Update (15th February 2012): Someone shattered the windows of Maria Aletras’s bead and ribbon shop near parliament.
  • There was also a fire at an unknown building on Euripidou.
  • Evidently, one of the unknown (photo link) looted buildings on Stadiou Street was Mark Aalen’s opticians.
  • And one of the other unknown (photo link) smashed/looted buildings elsewhere was Piacere.
  • More or less shockingly, an antique gun and sword boutique (on Omonoia Square) was also looted last night (as it was on 8th December 2008). (Hat tip, Dimitris Vorris (@dimitrivorris) for one of the confirmations of the looting of the weapon shop.) As Thalis (@th4lis) said, ‘episodes without the plunder of the classic shop with guns and swords in Omonoia don’t mean anything [Επεισόδια χωρίς να λεηλατηθεί το κλασσικό μαγαζί με τα όπλα κ τα σπαθιά στην Ομόνοια δεν νοούνται]’ (photo link).
  • Kosta Boda (in the complex of historic buildings on Stadiou Street) caught fire when the neighbouring building, the Attikon cinema, did; and it suffered ‘extensive destruction [εκτεταμένη καταστροφή]’ (photo).
  • Similarly, the Asty cinema’s neighbouring cafe burned too. [The neighbouring cafe did burn, but it has already been counted; it was Starbucks.]
  • Update, 15th February 2012: a bookshop was attacked; Kaufmann’s foreign-language (English, French and German) bookshop on Stadiou Street was ‘burned out‘.
  • Mobile phone shop Cosmote (on Panepistimiou) was ‘envelop[ed] [τυλίγουν]’ by flames.
  • A jewellery shop (on Themistokleous) was consumed by ‘flames [φλόγες]’.
  • Update (17th February 2012): there was a ‘fire [φωτιά]’ at the Janus (Ιανός) bookshop (on Stadiou).
  • Update (18th January 2012): evidently, H&M (on Stadiou) was damaged.
  • Update (18th February 2012): Rioters smashed the windows of K. Verykios’s Stones jewellery shop (κοσμηματοπωλείο (photo link)), then looted it.

Update (17th February 2012): ‘Anti-authoritarian groups [Ομάδες αντιεξουσιαστών]’ ‘threw petrol bombs into the King George Hotel, but without causing damage [πέταξαν βόμβα μολότοφ και μέσα στο ξενοδοχείο King George, χωρίς όμως να προκληθούν ζημιές]’; so I have not counted this.

Cultural venues

  • Rioters burned a neo-Classical cinema, the Attikon (see photo below), in 19-21 Stadiou Street; even Marie Claire (@MarieClaire_gr) noticed the destruction of the historic building. (The following night, there was a candle-lit vigil outside the Attikon, a rally against violence. Every week, there will be a ‘silent protest against the dismantling of our lives [βουβής διαμαρτυρίας για το ξήλωμα της ζωής μας]’.)
  • And the Apollo cinema ‘caught fire [πήρε φωτιά]’. Its foyer suffered ‘complete destruction [πλήρης καταστροφή]’, but the damage was ‘repairable [επιδιορθώσιμες]’.Update (17th February 2012): the Attikon and the Apollon were in the same historic building. The head of the Directorate of Conservation of Ancient and Modern Monuments (η Διεύθυνση Συντήρησης Αρχαίων και Νεώτερων Μνημείων), Nikos Minos, said that it had suffered ‘very serious damage [πολύ μεγάλη ζημιά]’.
  • Update (15th February 2012): Apparently, the Asty was ‘ablaze‘; but thankfully, Grrrl in Athens (@RegularGrrrl) saw the Asty and tweeted that it was not burned down. (There had been reports that it had been ‘ravaged‘.) Still, SigmaLive (@Sigmalivecom) showed that it was burned(photo link). As to Vima reported, the Asty ‘has not sustained serious damage [δεν έχει υποστεί σοβαρές ζημιές]’; the Greek Reporter’s Anastasia Balezdrova said that there was ‘damageto the entrance only’.The cinema’s director, Georgios Tsakalakis, said that the foyer had been destroyed; and that ‘the roof ha[d] sustained serious damage [έχει υποστεί σοβαρές ζημιές και η οροφή]’.To Vima specifically noted that ‘neither [has] the basement jail of the Gestapo that is found next to it, because the heavy entrance door protected them from the arson [ούτε και το υπόγειο κρατητήριο της Γκεστάπο που βρίσκεται δίπλα του, επειδή τα προφύλαξε από τους εμπρησμούςη βαριά πόρτα εισόδου]’.The arsonists also ‘tried to rob the till [επιχείρησαν να ληστέψουν το ταμείο]’, but the staff struggled with them and prevented them. The ‘masked ones approached Giorgios Stergiakis and demanded money from him, in order for them not to destroy the cinema [τον [Γιώργο Στεργιάκη] πλησίασαν κουκουλοφόροι και του ζήτησαν χρήματα, για να μην καταστρέψουν το σινεμά]’.Adding another layer of history, and significance, to Vima noted that, after the Nazi occupation, the building had served as the ‘cover for/housing of the central offices of EAM [ως στέγητων κεντρικών γραφείων του ΕΑΜ]’. The National Liberation Front (Εθνικό Απελευθερωτικό Μέτωπο) had been the heart of Greek resistance to the Nazi occupation, and became the heart of the anti-imperialist force in the Greek Civil War.Update (16th January 2012): one or more imbeciles broke the windows of a building housing a memorial to Greece’s anti-Nazi resistance to the Nazis, and wrote ‘uprising’ on the wall in revolutionary red. Apparently, it was metres away from the Attikon, so I assume it was the building housing the Asty. (It was not the Museum of National Resistance (Μουσείο Εθνικής Αντίστασης), which is 4.3km away from the Attikon.)
  • Update (15th February 2012): the Australian Eye, the (U.S.) Standard-Examiner and the (U.S.) Times Leader published AP/DPA confirmation that ‘[d]emonstrators torched… a museum’. Apparently, it was the Numismatic Museum (Νομισματικό Μουσείο), the museum of coins and currency, which is housed in archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann’s 1880 residence, Iliou Melathron on the junction of Panepistimiou and Amerikis. (Hat tip, Vatolakkiotis for the initial information.) There, ‘damages were caused [Φθορές προκλήθηκαν]’ to the entrance (είσοδο).(2)
  • Update (17th February 2012): a historic building, the Nikoloudi Building (το Μέγαρο Νικολούδη; at 41 Panepistimiou) suffered ‘serious damage [σοβαρές ζημιές]’.
  • Update (17th February 2012): a complex of conserved historic buildings (το συγκρότημα διατηρητέων) at 6-8 Stadiou was also seriously damaged. They are owned by the Spiliopouleio Hospital and Hospice of Saint Helen (το Σπηλιοπούλειο Νοσοκομείο «Αγ. Ελένη» και Ασύλου Ανιάτων).
  • Update (17th February 2012): another historic building, a registered ‘landmark building [διατηρητέο κτίριο]’, at 66 Ermou, was seriously damaged.
  • Update (17th February 2012): Tragically, when youths smashed up places to get stones to throw at the police, their first source was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (το Μνημείο του Άγνωστου Στρατιώτη).
  • Update (17th February 2012): In another of the ugliest acts of “tactical” cultural consumption/destruction, on the corner of Panepistimiou and Omirou, the Catholic Church of Saint Dionysios suffered ‘extensive destruction [εκτεταμένη καταστροφή]’ of its perimeter wall, its marble steps, its gate and its pilasters.

False rumours of cultural destruction

  • Word quickly spread that ‘Athens National Library [Was] On Fire‘; but Anastasia Balezdrova confirmed that those rumours ‘proved false’. Rather, ‘fires [had] envelop[ed] the vendors outside the National Library [φλόγες τυλίγονται και τα εκδοτήρια έξω από την Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη]’.
  • Similarly, palio fatsa (@paliofatsa) reassured the public that ‘the porn cinema on 3rd September Street was not burned [δεν κάηκε πορνο-σινεμά της οδού 3ης Σεπτεμβριου]’.

Public services

Someone broke the windows of the post office on Ethnikis Amynis Street (see photo below).

Media organisations

The Lambrakis Journalist Organisation (Δημοσιογραφικός Οργανισμός Λαμπράκη (ΔΟΛ)) was ‘looted [λεηλατημένο]’ (photo link, hat tip Modestos Siotos (@modestospk)). This is particularly noteworthy because DOL had immediately produced a good record of many of last night’s episodes of looting, destruction and violence. (I found DOL’s article on news.in.gr very helpful in producing this post.)

Personal private property

I do not count them in my study, but cars were vandalised and burned.

Other objects

Likewise, I have not counted it in my study, but protesters burned a German flag.

Corfu (Kerkyra)

Parliamentary/party/bureaucratic property

Heraklion (Irakleio)

Parliamentary/party/bureaucratic property

  • In Herakleion, the capital of the southern Greek island of Crete, youths smashed the windows of the court on Justice Avenue.
  • They damaged, ‘ransacked‘ the office of PASOK MP Vasilis Kegkeroglou.
  • And they did the same to the office of Manolis Stratakis.

It is unclear whether the MPs’ offices and two other public offices were ransacked, or whether the MPs’ offices were the public offices…

Police property

(They Molotov cocktailed police jeeps.)

Patras

Parliamentary/party/bureaucratic property

In the larger, western city of Patras, masked youths Molotov cocktailed an unidentified political office.

Other commercial properties

They also smashed a shop’s windows.

Personal private property

(And they (photo link) Molotov cocktailed a car; but again, I do not count that in my analysis.)

Thessaloniki

Sky News’ Robert Nisbet (@RobNisbetSky) reported ‘extensive‘ violence and damage in Thessaloniki.

Youths tore the protective boards off banks and shops on Mitropoleos Street, and smashed their security cameras. Still, others disapproved.

Banks

A surprised/suspicious Anthony Verias (@VeriasA) reported that, at one point, a protester with ‘no hood nothing [to cover his face]’ ‘magically’ found a pick axe (casually left at a building site) with which to ‘smash [a] bank‘.

  • Proton Bank was attacked.
  • ProBank (on Mitropoleos) burned (see photo below).
  • Masked people smashed the front window of First Business Bank (and tried but failed to set fire to it).
  • Anthony Verias (@VeriasA) showed ‘damage‘ to an unnamed bank in Thessaloniki (see photo below).

Other commercial properties

Trikala

Banks

Update (17th February 2012): There had been reports that fifteen hooded and scarved youths used ‘clubs and sledgehammers [ρόπαλα και βαριοπούλα]’ to smash the windows of three (unnamed) banks. In fact,

Volos

Parliamentary/party/bureaucratic property

  • Volos’s town hall was first occupied then set on fire, ‘burned [καίγεται]’.
  • Its tax office (Internal Revenue Office (Δημόσια Οικονομική Υπηρεσία (ΔΟΥ))) was looted, and its files ‘destroyed’, ‘burned [έκαψαν φακέλους]’.
  • Update (17th February 2012): apparently, there was unspecified ‘damage [ζημιές]’ to the office of the Job Centre/Employment Service (the Organisation for the Employment of the Workforce (Οργανισμός Απασχολήσεως Εργατικού Δυναμικού (ΟΑΕΔ))).
  • Update (17th February 2012): there was also unspecified ‘damage [ζημιές]’ to the offices of the Prefectural Committee of Magnesia.

Banks

  • In the central city of Volos, the Eurobank (on Iasonas Street) burned; and the fire so weakened it that it ‘collapsed [[κ]ατέρρευσε]’.
  • Update (17th February 2012): there was unspecified ‘damage [ζημιές]’ to the Hellenic Post Bank.

Destructive tactics

There were tactical fires to disperse tear gas; and there are burning/burned-out bin barricades. They did cause damage/destruction to some physical property; but their aim was citizens’ protection from chemical or physical attack. (Hat tip, Fani Angelou (@angeloufani) and Spyros Gkelis (@northaura) for their links to the tweets below.)

Also, rioters smashed public squares’ and ‘‘luxury hotels, banks and department storesmarble architecture in order to use the rubble to stone the police; they smashed ‘around 40 tons [περίπου 40 τόνους]’ of marble and other stone in Athens alone. That is destruction to enable violent action; and the damage to the Church of St. Dionysios and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was inexcusable; but they did not damage their communities’ public places/sacred sites for the sake of it.

And finally…

For some, it was a spectator sport:

And while all this was going on, this was the scene in the cafe in parliament:

Method

I got a lot of information from friends, colleagues and other people I follow on Twitter.

I searched Twitter’s complete timelines for,

  • 12fgr καίγεται/καίγονται
  • 12fgr έκαψε/έκαψαν
  • 12fgr βλάβη/ζημιά
  • 12fgr έβλαψε/έβλαψαν/ζημίωσε/ζημίωσαν
  • 12fgr καταστροφή/κατεστραμμένος/κατεστραμμένοι/κατεστραμμένη/κατεστραμμένες/κατεστραμμένο/κατεστραμμένα
  • 12fgr κατέστρεψε/κατέστρεψαν/καταστράφηκε/καταστράφηκαν
  • 12fgr φωτιά
  • 12fgr φωτιές
  • [anything on] Αγρίνιο
  • Athens, burned
  • Athens, burning [which was annoying, because there were hundreds of wholly uninformative tweets that ‘Athens is burning’ or ‘Athens, Greece is burning’; Twitter even broke under the weight of them, so I couldn’t see anything earlier than 10pm UK time, 12th February 2012, 12am Greek time, 13th February 2012]
  • Athens, damage
  • Athens, damaged
  • Athens, destroyed
  • Athens, destruction
  • Athens, fire [at which point, I daydreamed of an “-idiot” filter; I could not retrieve anything earlier than 3am UK time, 5am Greek time, 13th February 2012]
  • Athens, fires
  • Greece, burned
  • not Greece, burning [see: Athens, burning]
  • Greece, damage
  • Greece, damaged
  • Greece, destroyed
  • Greece, destruction
  • not Greece, fire [see: Athens, fire]
  • Greece, fires
  • Corfu/Kerkyra, burned
  • Corfu/Kerkyra, burning
  • Corfu/Kerkyra, damage
  • Corfu/Kerkyra, damaged
  • Corfu/Kerkyra, destroyed
  • Corfu/Kerkyra, destruction
  • Corfu/Kerkyra, fire
  • Corfu/Kerkyra, fires
  • [anything on] Herakleion/Irakleio/Ηράκλειο
  • [anything on] Patra/Πάτρα/Patras/Πάτρας [I did not find much about the 12th; however, I did learn that, on the morning of the 11th, in Patra(s), about 30 masked people looted Carrefour and distributed their goods in the local market (λαϊκή αγορά)]
  • Thessaloniki, burned
  • Thessaloniki, burning
  • Thessaloniki, damage
  • Thessaloniki, damaged
  • Thessaloniki, destroyed
  • Thessaloniki, destruction
  • Thessaloniki, fire
  • Thessaloniki, fires
  • [anything on] Trikala/Τρίκαλα
  • Volos, burned
  • Volos, burning
  • Volos, damage
  • Volos, damaged
  • Volos, destroyed
  • Volos, destruction
  • Volos, fire
  • Volos, fires

And I searched Google News for:

  • Άστυ, Αττικόν, Απόλλων
  • Agrinio/Αγρίνιο
  • Athens/Αθήνα
  • Corfu/Κέρκυρα
  • Herakleion/Irakleio/Ιράκλειο
  • Νομισματικό Μουσείο
  • Greece, destroyed
  • Greece, fire
  • Patras/Πάτρας
  • Thessaloniki/Θεσσαλονίκη
  • Trikala/Τρίκαλα
  • Volos/Βόλος

Footnotes

1: Incomplete or confused accounts included that: 150 shops had been looted, and 34 of those 150 had been burned; or that 150 buildings had been looted and 48 (others) burned; or that 110 buildings had been damaged or destroyed, that 50 of those 110 had been burned, and that 30 of those 110 had been looted… (And, according to Athens Municipality and police, in the city (but sometimes reported as the country): 45 buildings had been burned; and 93 buildings had been either seriously damaged or destroyed.)

2: Andy Dabilis (@AndyDabilis) claimed that the ‘WWII museum‘ ‘adjacent’ to the Attikon cinema was ‘now gone too’. However, the Attikon is on Stadiou Street, while the War Museum is 1.5km away on Rizari Street; the Museum of the City of Athens is 200m away on Paparigopoulou; and the Greek Navy Museum is 1.2km away on Voulgari.

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