Political rallies in a democracy are nothing new or unusual, and not illegal. People have the right to express their views peacefully. What I saw the other day was anything but a peaceful political rally.
Organizing a political rally is not an easy task. In general, one must consider obtainment of permits, ensure publicity, ascertain the projected presence of attendees, secure the procurement of visual effects such as appropriate slogans, flags, sound and lighting systems. One must acquire bullhorns for use by designated “cheerleaders” who are responsible for announcing certain slogans on the subject matter and in the case on the Greekness of Macedonia. In addition, the organizing committee is in control to appoint someone to be the Master of Ceremonies (MC) of the rally who would introduce the speakers. The committee should establish that all written scripts of everyone’s remarks (including of the MC) are reviewed, and have an extra copy of all comments about the subject at hand. Also, it is wise to line up backup speakers in case of emergencies. It is advisable to procure transportation mainly busses to avoid unnecessary traffic in and around the area of the rally but also to avoid any inconvenience of the attendees who come from various points of the general area to the specific location.
Two significant factors that I would consider as necessary are the traffic marshals and the legislators. The first ones, the traffic marshals are needed to discharge the duties of directing the crowds before, during, and after the rally. It is much advisable to disperse vests preferably yellow with the distinctive insignia of the rally. The responsibility of the traffic marshals includes, but not limited to the control of the crowds from overreacting, and worst, being carried away to violent and unfortunate events. The presence of the marshals is also crucial mainly to avoid the crowds taken advantage by thugs whose designated job is to disrupt the rally and become the center of attention with atrocities that would convert a peaceful rally to an out of control mob. The last, but not least measure is to visit beforehand the legislators who sympathize or even empathize with the cause at hand. Bring them with you, if it is achievable. Appoint them as ad hoc speakers, if it is possible. Most importantly persuade the legislators whose district is the area that the rally takes place to be present.
I only saw some photographs and videos of the political rally of January 20, 2019. It was disappointing at best, disgusting at worst. The organizing committee considering only the purity of the purpose of the rally left almost everything to chance. They should know better. In the last years, it happens anytime a political rally takes place, especially when it has to do with issues of national interests and national security. Don’t they remember what happened at Prespes during the signing of the Agreement?
In this case, the demonstrators were divided into two camps. Those who participated to express their patriotic feelings and the hoodlums, about 30-50 of them who went to the location only to create trouble and havoc. I wonder, what did they think they were going to achieve? The only thing they succeeded in doing was to tarnish the goals of the rally.
The hoodlums were organized and equipped with gas masks, face masks, and some of them with helmets. They were supplied with rocks, paint, flares, fireworks and other objects. Those with the flares had to have very thick gloves to handle the flares since flares get extremely hot seconds after they are lit.
The thugs weaponized the patriotic feelings of the crowd trying to get into the Parliament. I read somewhere that some of them are members of Parliament. If it is the case, and there is evidence to that effect, I hope they are deprived of their parliamentary immunity and charged as common criminals.
One might ask whether the organizing committee put on a façade of a peaceful, patriotic demonstration using these goons to do their dirty work. If that’s the case, the whole thing is a sad comedy perhaps even a nightmare with all patriotic Greeks as they were used as its background actors. However, then, why should the children suffer from the effects of the tear gas? It raises the question, “since the police have used tears gas in the past, why did parents take their children to the political rally?” People should refrain from taking young children to political rallies since they are easily susceptible to trauma.
I am not impressed with the handling of the situation by the police. The police reacted as amateurs, and according to some they acted as if they were collaborators of the attacking hoodlums. I heard that the government had deployed 1,500 policemen. Where were they and doing what? It gave rise to conspiracy theories that the police were in cahoots with the hoodlums. I do not know whether it is true or not; however, what I know is that, in the past, any time the police had arrested a few of the troublemakers they were ordered from higher authorities to let them go. The police know who the scalawags are, but because of political connections, nothing happens to them. As a result, these thugs not only do not learn, but they are emboldened knowing that they are untouchables
"These people here are asleep."
If one thinks that the problem with the name started in 1991, one has no idea what one is talking about. In international law the genie must stay in the bottle; if the genie is out of the bottle, the genie is out of the bottle. Regardless of how one feels about it, there is no return.
It is time that people stop seeing the situation from a partisan prism. Greece is in a bad position because of negligence, indifference, and mainly political tribalism which has positioned it above the country. Such behavior is blamable; it will haunt the country for a long time to come.
Since 1950, ALL political parties, old and new, of ALL political persuasions are equally responsible for the present mess. Each one of them set a stone in the foundation of the problem or contributed by mixing the cement. They had created one problem after another, and then they kicked the can for the other party to deal with it, and the other, and the other and now we are where we are.
The demonstrators demanded that Greeks should hold a referendum on the name issue. I hate to say it, but it is too late. That could happen immediately after Skopje had announced their referendum in 2008 just after Greece had blocked Skopje from membership to NATO; it was the time that the Parliament of Greece was convened to revise the Constitution. Why didn’t the New Democracy Party change Article 44 paragraph 2 of the Constitution to allow voters to demand a referendum? Where were the “super-patriots” at that time? Why did the same people close their mouths when Mrs. Dora Bakoyanni was selling Macedonia to Milososki one centimeter at a time? At that time Constantine Karamanlis was the Prime Minister, and Dora Bakoyanni was the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Furthermore, where were they after the same people realized that Greece gave away the name of Macedonia to the Slavs through the Interim Accord of 1995? I had suggested that we staged demonstrations before the diplomatic missions of Greece; I was turned down flat. Where were these “super-patriots”?
On February 26, 2006, I wrote the article A Lesson on Democracy which was published by the Website Hellenic Communication Service of Christos and Mary Papoutsy. When one reads the article one understands that indifference, negligence, procrastination, and sloppiness do not pay. As a good friend of mine put it, “This immature or infantile or – at the very least – an adolescent way of handling serious issues is becoming a Greek trademark. Where are those heroes, those scrupulous, self-sacrificing patriots who once did everything out of love for Greece?”
I am closing with a quote from a book I have started writing. It refers to the situation in Athens during the Macedonian Struggle.
Such conduct of the MFA, unfortunately, is nothing new. Indifference, negligence, procrastination, and sloppiness employed by the Greek political elite and the bureaucrats of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) only impeded the work of the Greek resistance against the Bulgarians in Macedonia. Besides, such an attitude gave the impression to the Great Powers that the Greek population of Macedonia was non-existent since the only ones fighting for freedom were the Bulgarians.
The behavior and reaction of the Greek political elite between 1878 and 1904 were at best inexcusable. To this effect was Pavlos Melas’ message to Bishop Karavangelis “I have read your report at the Ministry [of Foreign Affairs]. These people here are asleep. What can I do?” The importance of Macedonia was remarked by Pavlos Melas to George Sourlas, the principal of a school at Nymphaion, "Macedonia is the lung of Greece; without it, the rest of Greece would be condemned to death."