The Marfin Bank tragedy, one year later

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A year ago on Thursday, during a large nationwide strike on May 5, a group of youths decided to deliver a blow to the capitalist system. After failing to burn down the Ianos bookstore in central Athens, they set fire to a branch of Marfin Bank, along with the people who were inside, people whom the protesters had derided as "scabs."

It was no accident; it was a tragedy waiting to happen. The thousands of petrol bombs hurled by “angry youths” every year were bound to hit their target at some point. The target on May 5, 2010, was three young people: Paraskevi Zoulia (35 years old), Angeliki Papathanasopoulou (32) and Epameinondas Tsakalis (36). They gasped their last breath in the fires of the "revolution."

It was no accident; it was a murder announced. The streets of Athens are still marked with the black spray-painted slogans encouraging this heinous act: "This is just. Set fire to the banking system." The banking system, of course, healed immediately, but three families lost one of their own forever.

Murders are committed all over the world, but societies are judged the day after, by their sense of outrage and their reaction, by whether they say "Enough!" or they allow evil to go forgotten. There is one detail that must not escape us: As the blaze grew inside the bank and the victims were out on the balcony pleading for help, certain protesters shouted, "Burn, scabs!" and went on with the march, repeating their anthem: "Don’t bow down, people. Resistance is the only way!"

Was it insensitivity? Maybe.

Then again, maybe the protesters holding their little red flags and seeing their fellow countrymen in danger believed that every revolution demands a sacrifice. Maybe, though, it was something even deeper than that. We live in a society that has an almost metaphysical belief that evil will not come knocking. Maybe this metaphysical conviction explains the total disregard for any safety measures and the apathy for the rain of petrol bombs hurled at every rally. Each and every one of those Molotov cocktails is a potential murder weapon. Yet after every rally, the only charge made is that the riot police attacked peaceful protesters. The “angry youths in black” not only disappear into the masses at the rally itself, but they also disappear from the public discourse that follows.

One year later and nothing has changed -- we have learned nothing. The police claim they are stymied and cannot solve this triple homicide. The self-proclaimed "troublemakers" continue to weave their way into the marching groups of various political parties and movements without raising a single eyebrow or fearing that someone will point them out to the authorities. The Molotov cocktails continue to look for new victims. And, when they find them again, we will all express shock. Political parties and the media will talk about their abhorrence and the people will ask how it happened.

ekathimerini.com, Wednesday May 4, 2011