Becoming cockroaches @Syntagma square

by Nelli Kambouri

Since yesterday, June 28, we live like cockroaches in Syntagma square. We are sprayed continuously with chemicals by the Greek police regardless of what we do or what we say, but we persist. We leave Syntagma square for a while to catch our breath and keep on coming back. We rest a bit and return to the square. Even before the chemicals began exploding yesterday morning, we were just sitting on the pavement and the riot police stormed and arrested a person seating nearby. When we protested against the arrest, the riot police responded by arresting another passerby who was just exiting a coffee shop with a coffee in his hand. To be just standing close to Syntagma square seems dangerous and certainly suspicious. The arrests are being enacted to disperse the crowds, but we keep on moving closer to the square instead of leaving.

As we are becoming cockroaches we begin, without really realizing it, to adopt tactics of stasis, of perseverance and of endurance, that were previously unknown to us. Chemicals keep on flying, sound bombs keep on exploding all around us making terrible noise and the crowds respond by not leaving, by remaining at Syntagma square. Becoming cockroaches and growing more and more resistant to the chemicals, our bodies begin to mutate. In gas masks, painting maalox on our faces, wearing sun glasses, we persist. The figures in gas masks recognize each other even when they meet further away from Syntagma square.

Even now that the austerity law was approved in the Greek parliament, the crowds are not leaving, they are reinforced. «Let’s have an assembly now,» said someone in the midst of a cloud of chemicals. Like we did when we «staged the music concert yesterday», he explains. Yesterday, we were cleaning and washing the square with water for hours to disperse the smell of the chemicals and then from a defunct PA system the Tiger Lillies played live on Syntagma square. Chemicals and sound bombs started to explode again all around Syntagma, but everybody remained on the square and kept on dancing.

The classic urban tactics of confrontation -like throwing marbles, stones, and molotov cocktails against the police- seem and are secondary in face of our tactics. Cockroaches do not attack, they do not make much noise, nor do not destroy something. But, we cockroaches are far more persistent and productive than other animals that are slowly disappearing.

  1. I like you posting. Please contact me. Im a Swedish journalist looking for people on the syntagma square to interview.

    Eigil Söderin
    eigil.soderin (at)

  2. mauro costa said:

    we´re all cockroaches at syntagma…. syntagmatic is a line of words… or a line of cockroaches… its paradigmatic line…

  3. Quilombo said:

    Becoming cockroaches, becoming Syntagma. It is symptomatic that this battle coincided with the blockade, by the Greek government, of the second freedom flotilla that was bound for Gaza. Somehow we are all Palestinians now. European governments are treating their insurrect citizens like Israel treat the Palestinians in the occupied territories: police control of the public space, tear gasses, terror.


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