A statement of solidarity to YDSA from SYRIZA Youth members about the global problems of police brutality and capitalism. By Spyros Kasapis (SYRIZA Youth member, PhD Student, YDSA at the University of Michigan) and Vicky Tsefala (Head of SYRIZA Youth International Committee). Edited by Elias Khoury of University of Michigan YDSA.
On May 25th, 2020, police officer Derek Chauvin mercilessly took the life of 46-year-old black American man George Floyd. In video footage that has gone viral worldwide, Chauvin can be seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck until fatal asphyxiation. The kneeling lasted nearly 10 minutes, with Floyd totally unresponsive for the final three. Despite Floyd repeatedly shouting “I can’t breathe,” Chauvin refused to let up. The murder of George Floyd is reminiscent of that of Eric Garner, who was also strangled to death by police while saying the same thing.
Both cases, along with countless others, remind us of just how big of a problem police brutality is in the United States. But this problem is not uniquely American. Indeed, police brutality plagues societies all across the globe. Here in Greece, we had our own George Floyd.
14 years ago, in the center of Athens, Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead by a police officer while celebrating his 15th birthday. His friends watched in shock and horror as their beloved peer was gunned down before their very eyes. The biggest economic collapse in Greek history exacerbated the discontent that followed. Unprecedented social turmoil ensued.
SYRIZA led protests, which often turned to riots, demanding justice for Alexis and strong, disciplinary action against the policeman who took his life. Members of our party’s youth wing, SYRIZA Youth, hung a banner on the Acropolis with “Resistance” written on it in several languages. The government responded to our direct action as they usually do — with more violence. It was clear that the state was far more concerned with preserving its own power than meeting the needs of the Greek people. But SYRIZA kept fighting anyway. We continued to march in Alexis’ name but, in reality, our fight was so much larger than one slain teenager.
In fact, our fight was even larger than just demanding an end to police violence. There was another demand, another reason we took to the streets. As we mourned Alexis Grigopolous’ loss, our economy was falling to pieces. Greek people were suddenly made to realize that they were subject to a socioeconomic order that not only deprives them of basic liberties, but interferes with their pursuit of happiness. With unemployment rising, wages plummeting, and government welfare programs either low-quality or nonexistent, people understood that stoking civil unrest might be the only solution — even if things sometimes, regrettably, get violent.
This is the common ground that two, otherwise very different, countries share: subjection to a system that distributes wealth, power, and freedom in such an unequal way, which denies minority people — namely, black Americans — economic opportunity and imprisons them at vastly disproportionate rates. Our organizations, SYRIZA Youth and the YDSA, share a common bond in our commitment to dismantle these systems of oppression. We distrust and reject the existing, corrupt political system and neoliberal economic status quo that underlies so many tragedies, such as the murder of innocent civilians around the world. We do not support shallow “solutions” that only serve to hide the truth from the common man. Instead, we seek to reach the very foundations of discrimination and police brutality so that we can eradicate these ills once and for all. We hope that SYRIZA Youth and the YDSA can use our shared goals to cultivate a stronger bond between the two of us going forward.
“No justice, no peace” is a phrase being chanted all over the United States at the current moment. State violence, racism, social exclusion, class exploitation, police brutality, and Trump-era neo-fascism are the reasons why hundreds of thousands of honorable people in multiple American cities are filled with feelings of anger and rage, frustration and discontent. SYRIZA Youth expresses unwavering support for these rebellious Americans — our rebellious brothers and sisters — and stands in staunch solidarity with the YDSA in their fight for freedom, and for a world without racism, discrimination, poverty, and unemployment.