A claim by officials of the ruling party New Democracy Conservatives that a major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) lawmaker is stoking rising violence that has seen a series of bombing in Athens has the parties engaged in a war or words over mounting social unrest.
Democracy released a video of SYRIZA Member of Parliament Vangelis Diamantopoulos delivering a speech in which he is seen to suggest that Greeks taking up guns is a justifiable response to the country’s crushing economic crisis, the newspaper Kathimerini reported.
Diamantopoulos admitted in Parliament last week he had an anarchist background and bitterly criticized a government-ordered police raid of an abandoned building known as Villa Amalia, which has been occupied by squatters for nearly two decades. Police said it’s a hotbed of Leftists and Anarchists and has been used as a staging ground for riots but he said the building, which has also housed concerts and conferences and was not housing troublemakers.
The raid started a new spate of violence and bombings, including at the homes of four journalists and the brother of the New Democracy spokesman. Diamantopoulos though said that The Mall, a large shopping center in northern Athens, which was bombed four days after the MP’s speech, was a more appropriate symbol of lawlessness.
In a statement, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou referred to Diamantopoulos as being “terrorist-friendly” and an “anarchist” and accused him of making The Mall a target. Kedikoglou called on the justice system to investigate the matter.
SYRIZA responded by accusing Kedikoglou of presenting a heavily edited video of Diamantopoulos’s speech and of taking his comments out of context. In the full version of the SYRIZA MP’s speech, he says: “At the moment, they are saying to people: “In your exasperation, either commit suicide or pick up a gun.” What we say is: “Join us and turn this rage into a creative movement. That’s the clear message from SYRIZA.”
SYRIZA said New Democracy was guilty of “forgery and a disgusting provocation” and suggested that those responsible for distributing the edited footage should face criminal charges. The two parties have been at odds the last few weeks over political violence, with ND accusing SYRIZA of not condemning it strongly enough and the Leftists accusing the Conservatives of trying to divert people’s attention from the state of the economy.