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Empros Theatre Raided by Greek Police

The vandalism of the Greek authorities continues with the eviction of the Empros Theatre yesterday.  The infrastructure of solidarity is being systematically removed, from the squats and the … and now to the social health centres and cultural establishment   People in Greece are urgently trying to fill in the gaps in the best way that they can, to keep themselves occupied and share skills to survive in the face of the ongoing crisis but at every turn their efforts are frustrated by the authorities.

Last December, the eviction of Villa Amalias brought ten thousand people to the streets of Athens.  A social centre, a radical base, venue for alternate culture, community resoure and base for anti-fascist activity was unceremoniously evicted.  This eviction of a popular, central and well utilised social space was followed by multiple other attacks and raids on occupied community facilities throughout Greece, under the cloak of combatting “lawlessness“, all the while the Golden Dawn with the collusion of the police were engaged in urban terrorism.  Empros was also targetted at the same time as the eviction of Villa Amalias, although managed to survive with only its water system being removed.

Thoughout the year the attacks on social centres and squats have continued throughout Greece. Multiple evictions have followed.  This month however the police have turned their attention from the overtly political social centres to medical and cultural solidarity projects.  At the start of the month four medical solidarity centres have been raided, depite the dire state of healthcare in Greece, and the difficulty of undocumented peoples safely receiving treatment including treatment for injuries sustained by the street violence that targets them.

Yesterday, the Empros Theatre was raided with two arrests, and actor and a director who were rehersing a future performance.  Empros has been a cornerstone of the radical movement against austerity.  One of the most progressive organisations I’ve encountered in Greece it attracted international attention from radical theatre companies, writers and musicians who need space.  The internationalism saw it host several festivals of minority culture within Athens, its feminism  and its solidarity with LGBTQ causes saw several events aimed at breaking down the rigidity of gender within the movement.

Empros released a statement following the raid.

Today, October 30 2013, police officers from the Acropolis police station arrested two young actors who were holding rehearsals at the free self-managed EMBROS Theater. The two arrested actors were led to the prosecutor, where they were charged with the breaching of seals, disrupting domestic peace, and repeatedly occupying a public building. They are currently detained, and will be tried tomorrow 31/10/2013 with a flagrante process.

For the last two years, EMBROS has been functioning as a non-commodified cultural and social space in the sensitive area of Psyrri, in the center of Athens. The action of today’s arrest is undeniably part of a bigger scheme of a political wipe-out of “lawlessness”, in other words of the freedom of expression, of social solidarity, of self-management and the creation of culture outside the norms of the vulgar market. The attack on EMBROS, a few days after the invasion of social infirmaries, and perhaps a few days before the threatened raid of the occupied ERT public television-radio station, leaves no doubt about the intentions of a government which appears determined to “redeem itself” of all kinds of social solidarity, after having already dismantled state structures.

Statement (extract): Empros Theatre, 30/10/13

Raoul Vaneigem, the Philosopher and writer associated with the French situationist movement, author of “The Revolution of Everyday Life” gave a talk at Empros the night before the raid and arrests.  He made this statement.

When a government represses the freedom of art and the freedom of expression, it no longer has he right to appropriate the name of democracy, it becomes the expression of totalitarianism which is legal for you to fight against. The arrest of the members of EMBROS Theater reveals the intention of an obscurantism incompatible with the right we all have to education and culture. It remains for each of us to show opposition and to promote cultural spaces as spaces which need to be saved from the mafia companies of the privatization, the influence and the empire of the commodity.

That night the assembly of Empros marched from the theatre to the Acropolis Police Station, today, there was a gathering for the first hearing for the director and actor arrested to show them support and resistance towards authoritarianism of power.   There was a good crowd gathered at the police station including those who were less heavily associated with Empros yet who wished to offer it solidarity.  As a space which had been associated with the marginalised, it reached out beyond the narrow confines of “politics” and material conditions to the ideological structures which shapes peoples lives.  As a theatre it was a space where assumptions were challenged and people were shown viewable, semi-tangable insight into a different reality from the one in which they are steeped, encouraging them to look beyond conditions, but to the ideas that perpetuated those conditions.

And thats why its especially poigniant that a woman who turned up to support the theatre, heard the statement “look, the cops and security here, the whole court system here are prostitutes”.

This is a country where the sex industry operates with free abandon.  Where women, primarily Eastern European were paraded on television as drug riddled and diseased, yet where in a country which is facing starvation, the sex industry is booming.  Where immigrant women find themselves stuck in survival situations and where Greek women are under pressure to find additional income to maintain their homes and keep their heads above water.  Many women find themselves drawn to an expanding industry, at a time when the economy is contracting, and a shift manifested by the diversion of income towards the sexual interest of (primarily) cis white males.

Transgender folk find themselves in a situation where they cannot have identification under the real names or gender, but instead must continually officially present as their birth name and gender, obtaining a job, a flat, an electrictity bill becomes a challenge in a country where the bureaucracy seems ever intricate and never ending, not to mention the police harassment and the consequent revealing of their transgender status as soon as their papers are produced.    The health system in Greece is creaking, marginalised parts of the population with specific health needs are deprioritised as the crisis reaches clinics and hospitals.  The medical solidarity centres that may have acted as support and provision are raided and closed.  Trans women are in a particularly acute situation, with both the status of the outcast and the generalised pressure on women; the sex industry provides a deeply unsafe safety net.

It is no surprise that the feminist and queer movement found a home in Empros, as art challenges hegemonic ideas; equally the stereotype of the struggling artist making ends meet by providing “company” is not unfounded.  Creative people live precarious lives even under the best of circumstances, and in times of crisis, precarity can turn to scarcity all too quickly.

Revolutions, when they erupt, appear to the elites and the establishment to be sudden and unexpected. This is because the real work of revolutionary ferment and consciousness is unseen by the mainstream society, noticed only after it has largely been completed. Throughout history, those who have sought radical change have always had to first discredit the ideas used to prop up ruling elites and construct alternative ideas for society, ideas often embodied in a utopian revolutionary myth.

Our Invisible Revolution

Until Greece can cast off the shackles of sexism and racism, that saw a section of society drawn towards the Golden Dawn, as a virile hero rising from the chaos, the revolution we want, the revolution we need will be ever distant.  EMPROS continues, necessary now more than ever.  To claim public space and challenge the ideas constraining the people, to let them imagine other futures and to be able to view other realities and other perspectives.

The programme at Empros (Ρήγα Παλαμήδη 2, Ψυρρή) ) continues despite the raid with

31st October
21:00 Blood Enemies by Arkas , Buffonata

1st November
18:30 Persians by Aeschylus , Tsiritsantsoule
21:00 The accidental death of an anarchist (and some other subversive ) by Dario Fo , Engineers of cheap Melodrama

2nd November
21.00 Interrogation of Peter Weiss , Facta non Verba

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