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London Riots Exclusive: Greek Caught in the Line of Fire

Last night 8/8/2011, I became a witness of something I’ve never had the chance to experience before in my life…I was literally caught in the line of fire in London, Clapham Junction area, near the railway station, between protestors and the police force.

I was heading back from a friend’s at 11 pm and with no buses around, I had to take the first available one….little did I know! My chosen bus literally stopped just minutes from Clapham Junction station and, to my despair, I had to walk around 10-15 minutes, in order to get there and make my way safely back.

My worst nightmare though came true…I ended up being in the middle of all the trouble. On one hand, all the protestors were shouting and screaming against the police and, on the other hand, the police standing by, ready for anything. I could hear them, but I couldn’t see the. I was too far away. Suddenly all hell broke loose.

Some of the protesters (probably gangs) started breaking cars, smashing store windows and stealing, and some of them were just fighting with each other. I was walking as fast as I could and all I could think of was just to make it safely to the other side! Throughout this turmoil, ordinary civilians like me were just trying to find their way back home. Some were panicking because they didn’t know where to hide or how to protect themselves against all this violence and the only thing they could do was run!! The last thing any of us wanted was to be caught up between the police and the protesters.

Finally after a 15 minute walk, which truly seemed like an eternity to me, I reached the other side and, to my relief, I could see the station.  However, on approaching, I was left stunned by what I saw…around 20 armed police officers, with K9 dogs ready for anything.

I felt paralyzed with fear because I knew very well what was about to come…and then I heard it! The very same announcement I kept hearing when I was 10 minutes away, but I’d been too far to make out what they were saying.  They were warning everybody to go back home or else they would be forced to use violence and tear gas to disperse everyone who was caught in their way. For a moment there I felt safe, I felt that I had made it. The first police officer I saw I ran to for help, only to be told off for being caught in this mess. I pleaded for help and asked which was the safest way to get back, since there were no buses or cabs running. He literally grabbed me by the arm and led me to the station, telling me, “Get out of here while you have time”. The station was guarded by 5 officers and by the time I made it to the platform, I could clearly see a helicopter circulating the area and smoke rising up to the sky.  All I could think of was how lucky I was to make it out of this hell, just in time.The whole scene reminded me of “Battle in Seattle”.

While I was waiting for my train to come, an English man approached me and began a conversation with me, expressing his distaste and his racist feelings towards all the people out there who were black. When I told him I was Greek, he joked, saying that we Greeks had started everything and we were also good when it came to riots. He admitted that the situation in England was not nice anymore and he expressed his dislike of all the ethnic minorities taking over the city.  How weird.

On my way back while I was on the train, I couldn’t stop thinking.  In a multi-cultural city and society such as London, don’t we have the right anymore to express our beliefs? But then again, if we do – since it’s our democratic right – do we need to learn to do it the right way?

Everything had started when a black man was shot dead by a police officer in Tottenham, predominantly a black area, and the whole thing resulted in what we’re witnessing today.  The English claim that it was a rival gang responsible for the death, but it’s no coincidence that Scotland Yard has failed to comment on the incident initially and one of its chiefs resigned.  In the aftermath, we’re looking at 500 k in damages and losses, and on 9/8/2011, 16,000 police officers will be out on the streets.

In a world that is supposed to be moving forward, one can only wonder…Are we moving towards the right direction? Are we moving and working for the same goals in society? Maybe, but apparently not! The world is getting even more scary and no one can doubt the fact that there’s little respect for human life anymore. But most importantly, there are certain groups out there that fuel racism, anger and hate, no matter what color you are. Today, more than ever, people need to stand up and defend human rights and need to understand that only unity can bring change.

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