Tag Archives: Simon Chapman

Simon Chapman, A Very Distinguished Fucking Anarchist

simon

Over the last couple of days the strangest thought has plagued me.  Two simple ugly words have kept emerging, only for me to lock them out and ridicule them as bizarre.  Simon’s dead.  Just to write it down feels like treachery.  Part of me looks forward to seeing him, to sharing a drink and dispelling this nonsense.  He’d say something wry, and witty and that would be that.  He was good like that.  Was.  Sometimes the shittiest word to ever have to use about a friend.

As part of a (temporary, and self-imposed) exile from all politics, I didn’t know his health had deteriorated so much.  We weren’t the kind of friends who lived out of each other’s pockets.  There are many who were closer to him than me and I wish them all my love.  But for almost 15 years he was always there.  At crap protests and good ones, festivals and parties, we’d find each other and we’d usually end up drinking together.  We shared a love of getting proper twatted and so we did that a lot.

The London anarchist movement would have looked very different without Simon Chapman.  From the Movement Against The Monarchy to the Wombles, to May Day, several squatted social centres and finally Class War, Simon was an active presence both on the streets and behind the scenes.  Countless flyers were produced by him over the years. He helped organise dozens of gigs, parties, campaigns and demonstrations and I was lucky enough to work with him on several of them.   Up until very recently he was still updating the Class War website.

It was the streets where his heart lay though and he was no passive peaceful protester.  He got nicked all the time when he was younger.  He fucking hated capitalism, was never afraid to get his hands dirty and despised the police.  And he had good reason.

In 2003 Simon was arrested during a vicious police tear gas attack at a particularly fruity anti-capitalist protest in Thessaloniki, Greece.  It was claimed he was carrying petrol bombs in his rucksack and he was held on remand with charges hanging over him that could have seen him spend the next 20 years in prison.  Six other people were arrested and charged in similiar circumstances.  All denied the allegations against them.  Photographic evidence soon emerged that showed the rucksack the police claimed Simon was carrying was not the rucksack he was arrested with.  It was a transparent fit up.

The treatment of those arrested was obscene.  All were beaten savagely following their arrest.    For the first few days of his incarceration Simon was left virtually blind after the police smashed his glasses.  He couldn’t see a fucking thing without his glasses.  Despite these abuses the UK’s Labour government did not lift a finger to help.  Neither did any other state.  So the prisoners took the only action left available to them and began a hunger strike.

A militant Europe-wide campaign fast emerged demanding that all seven prisoners be released.  Greek embassies were picketed across the continent and in some cases attacked and occupied.  In Barcelona the Metro system was shut down during an international day of action in solidarity with the prisoners.  In the UK a relentless campaign targeted the Greek Embassy and Tourist Board.   Parts of Athen’s University were repeatedly occupied, whilst fierce demonstrations throughout Greece resulted in more arrests.

In the end Simon didn’t eat for almost seven weeks. All the hunger-strikers were repeatedly hospitalised, such was the strain on their health. In the final days the prisoners stopped accepting fluids.  By now the solidarity campaign was at fever pitch as the risk that someone might die grew ever closer.  Mainstream media across Europe began to take an interest, lured by sensationalism and smelling blood.  Faced with international embarrassment, and concerned about creating seven martyrs who would shine a light on the corrupt Greek police, all the prisoners were released on November 6th 2003 and the charges against them dropped.  Simon came home.

Then, five years later, the bastards came for him again.  After repeated appeals from the Greek state prosecutor the charges against four of the original seven were re-instated.  In 2008 Simon was found guilty of a string of exotic sounding and terrifying charges including Distinguished Riot  and the creation, possession and explosion of bombs.  He was sentenced in his absence to eight and a half years in prison.

Under the threat of a European Police Warrant, which was likely to see him dragged from his home by our own filth and handed over to the Greek authorities, Simon was forced to return to Thessaloniki in 2010 to appeal the conviction.  In the ensuing trial the police evidence was repeatedly demolished by the defence teams.  The case ended in humiliation for the Prosecutor with all charges  thrown out for all four defendants except for a hastily cobbled together guilty verdict of “minor defiance of authority”.  This misdemeanor was enough to justify the time those accused had spent in prison, although the six month sentence was suspended and Simon once again returned home.

Simon was much, much more than just one of the Thessaloniki Seven.  But I suspect none who knew him well would deny the shadow these events cast over his life, and the impact they had on his health.  Of course our own state also put the boot in, subjecting him to years of benefit cuts, Atos assessments and at the mercy of London’s fucked private sector rental market.

Throughout all this Simon stayed strong, never stopping fighting, or laughing and never losing his faith that a better world would one day be possible.  He was kind, and clever and both ruefully cynical and enthusiastically hopeful at the same time.  He was also more than just an anarchist.  As well as raising his fist, he also raised his daughter who he regularly spoke of with loving pride*.  His loss will leave a big hole in many lives.  The last thing he would want is tears, but he will get them.

For myself, if you find me hassling you to come and find an off-licence with me at some boring, stale protest then sorry, but it’s because Simon isn’t there anymore.  And those are hard words to write, to accept as real.  I will fucking miss you mate.  I’m sorry I didn’t see you whilst you were so sick but glad my last memories of you are happy ones.  At least the bastards will never take you alive again. Rest well Simon, you deserve it.   Love and rage.

Johnny Void x

*If you’d like to contribute to a fund for Simon’s daughter please contact Freedom Bookshop.

The above pic was sent to me by someone, I hope whoever took it doesn’t mind me using it.

Thessaloniki 4 all found Not Guilty!

The four comrades, including UK anarchist Simon Chapman, have been found not guilty in Greek court of the charges going back to the EU Summit protests and riots in Thessaloniki in 2003.

from a comrade in Greece:

ALL four of the defendants are free. All the initial charges were dropped apart from “distinguished defiance of authority” which was then reduced to “minor defiance of authority”. It is a misdemeanour, carrying a 6-month suspended sentence, but they won’t be imprisoned unless of course someone is charged again during these 6 months. This was the best the juries could ever do, since they had to be charged of something, in order to justify the 6 months they had spent in prison back in 2003.

Small correction: these 500 euros is to cover trial expenses. The Europeans (Simon and Fernando) signed a paper confirming they are EU citizens and they promise to pay some other time, Kastro is an Athens permanent citizen and Michalis doesn’t need to pay it, since he is in prison already.

http://www.freedompress.org.uk/news/2011/01/31/thessaloniki-4-all-found-not-guilty/

Emergency Solidarity Demo for the Thessaloniki 4 // 11am Sat Jan 29th

Emergency Solidarity Demo for the Thessaloniki 4 // 11am Saturday Jan 29th* // Greek Tourist Office, Central London

Location of demo

The saga of the trial currently taking place in Thessaloniki, Greece continues with a judgement on the four now due on Monday January 31st. It was always clear that the trial and the repression which preceded was motivated and directed at the highest levels of the Greek State.

We do not think that justice is a value known to the courts, especially when the police have taken upon themselves to enforce the repression of the political establishments and continue to perpetrate lies to ensure convictions.

This Monday, January 31st, will see Simon’s lawyer give his final summary to the courts after which the Judges and Jury will retire to consider a decision.

We call on all comrades, sympathisers and freedom-lovers to show their solidarity with the four defendants

Solidarity to Simon Chapman, Suleiman “Kastro” Dakdouk , Michaelis Triakapis and Fernando Perez Gorraiz

We are with you all!

Everyone to the Streets!

+++ Spread the Word +++
Text this message to your friends:
“Emergency solidarity demo for the thessaloniki four, 11am Saturday Jan 29th at the greek tourist offices, 4 conduit st ( off regent st ), w1s 2dj – pass it on”

Tweet using #solidarity and/or #demo2011

http://www.salonikisolidarity.org.uk…hessaloniki-4/

Thessaloniki 4 trial update day #1 by some attendants in solidarity

What follows is the first in a series of updates that will cover the Court of Appeals of our four comrades in Thessaloniki, day by day. Background information at http://www.salonikisolidarity.org.uk/

Friday 14 January 2011, 9am, Thessaloniki Courthouse.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Justice-For-Simon-Chapman-and-the-Thessaloniki-4/113450595384764

The legal team of the defendants succeeded in its application to change one of the panel of three judges (a former state prosecutor) for another, less-biased one. Also, a fair number of the police witnesses (5-6 of the originally about 40 in number) asked to be excused because they knew nothing of the case.

The first prosecution witness was Police Officer Stamatis, the arresting officer of Simon Chapman. Simon’s lawyer, Christos Bakellas, set about demolishing the police witness testimony.

The next two prosecution witnesses (policemen) almost admitted the fact that they planted evidence against the arrested protesters. Neither police witness could say if forensic examination ever took place. These two officers were credible in that they didn’t know anything of our comrades’ arrests and could only say that they stuffed various molotovs and weapons in any available backpack to hand. Point being: any evidence found in a backpack is compromised.

The first day of the trial adjourned around 3.30pm Greek time (GMT+2).

Solidarity demo for Thessaloniki 4

A demonstration is planned at the Greek Embassy in London on the first day of the trial at 2pm, Friday 14th January 2011.

Check the website or facebook pages for full details nearer the time as well as regular updates on the campaign.

Background: Beaten Up, Fitted Up, Don’t Let Them Get Banged Up

Over a hundred people were arrested after a demonstration confronting the European Union summit, held in Thessaloniki in Greece back in 2003. Seven people were imprisoned and held on remand, including UK protester Simon Chapman. The prisoners began a hunger strike that lasted more than 50 days.

A massive worldwide solidarity campaign followed including demonstrations, direct action and occupations leading to all seven being released on bail. All the charges were eventually dropped.

Years later after appeals from the Prosecutor the charges were reinstated. The first case finally came before the Courts in January 2008 where Simon Chapman and three of the other defendants – Suleiman “Kastro” Dakdouk (Syrian origin), Fernando Perez Gorraiz (Spain) and Michaelis Triakapis (Greece) – were found guilty.

All of those accused maintain their innocence and video and photographic evidence clearly shows police planting a rucksack filled with petrol bombs next to Simon see the photo, and also see: http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=en&article_id=162765.

This didn’t stop him receiving a prison sentences of more than eight years, with the other defendants all receiving over five years.

They will now face the Appeal Court again in January 2011, when they have the opportunity to appeal against their convictions. This means we have less than two months to build a campaign, raise vital funds and show true global solidarity to the defendants.

Please link to the campaign’s website on your web sites, forums, blogs, facebook profiles etc, tell friends and family and help to spread the word. Join and share the facebook page at:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Justice-For-Simon-Chapman-and-the-Thessaloniki-4/113450595384764

or join and share the facebook group:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=150278698345263

Solidarity with the Thessaloniki 4!
http://www.salonikisolidarity.org.uk/

Fitted up, Beaten up, Banged up – Interview With Simon Chapman

Since there’s been a lot of talk of dodgy cops on here recently (for anyone who’s counting 90 websites are now carrying the piece which led to fitwatch being closed by the filth) it seem a good time to publish this interview with Simon Chapman which first appeared in Freedom Newspaper. Simon faces court in January to fight a sentence of 8 years after being arrested and fit up by Greek police way back in 2003.

What was happening in Thessaloniki in 2003 and why did you go?

In June 2003 there was going to be summit of the European Union heads of state. Previous summits had seen large mobilisations against them. I had been to a few info-nights about the coming mobilisations in Greece and we knew it could be a big one. I’d heard a lot about the anarchist scene in Greece so I decided to go and find out for myself.

What was the mobilisation in Thessaloniki like?

There was a broad spectrum of people, from anarchists, migrant groups, extra-parliamentary left, communists, trade unionists and so on. There were people from all over Greece and a fair proportion of people from across Europe and the world.

There was a demonstration in solidarity with migrants on the day before the summit started. That passed off relatively peacefully. The next day, the EU Summit itself was held at a conference centre outside of Thessaloniki so people took hired coaches up there. The cops gassed everyone as per usual and it was pretty chaotic.

I arrived in Thessaloniki later that evening and headed for the Polytechnic, which had been occupied to function as a convergence space. The main demonstration would take place in central Thessaloniki the next day, 21 June 2003.

What happened on the day you were arrested?

Various blocks left from the Polytechnic and started making their way towards the centre of town. We were near the back of one of them when tear gas canisters started raining down on us. There was total chaos, people running in all directions. I lost the people with me almost immediately.

I was lost in the gas cloud when suddenly I was hit very hard on my head and I tried to run and was hit many more times. I tried to keep moving but fell down to the pavement. By now there must have been at least four cops beating me all over, my head, my legs, everywhere. My glasses got kicked into my face and lost. If you have to rate cops for good beatings then I reckon the Greeks are in the premier division.

I was dragged to the side of kerb and made to sit down. Riot police placed black rucksacks next to me and started collecting molotovs abandoned in the street and placing them next to me or in the rucksacks. I was taken down a side street and the squad of police wanted me to carry the bags and I refused, so they gently persuaded me with batons and fists. I gave in. I had a strong impression of being fitted up.

So the cops made me carry two black rucksacks full of molotovs, strapped to my chest. Some of the bottles were leaking petrol and soon my shirt and trousers were completely soaked in it. If I had caught fire I would have been a human torch, no hope of survival. They put my hands in the twist position in rigid handcuffs, very tightly, behind my back.

The police took me out with them like a human shield to continue attacking the demonstrators, who were throwing molotovs and stones and anything they could find at the police, and therefore at me too. I had a cop holding each arm dragging me along, but of course they had armour and shields. I’m in the front-line, except on the wrong side. Every now and then the team of cops escorting me would stop for a break, and take turns beating me up. After two hours of this they took me to a hospital and I got my head stitched up.

There had been around a hundred arrests by the end of the evening, and they were gradually released over the next couple of days, leaving seven of us behind: Spyros, Dimitris and Michaelis (Greek), Fernando and Carlos (Spanish) and Kastro, a Syrian immigrant, and me.

A film crew had been nearby when the cops were planting the rucksacks on me, and this had been broadcast live nationally at the time, and then repeated on all the channels. My lawyer presented the video evidence and photos which clearly exonerated me. The prosecutor just stuffed the evidence in an envelope without looking at it and put it into a filing cabinet. He said something in Greek and our lawyers looked shocked. The seven of us were being remanded.

What was it like being a British prisoner in a Greek prison?

The other prisoners were generally sound. The first bit of Greek that I learnt was “Give me a cigarette”. A few spoke english very well so I picked up the rules, such as they existed. One guy – who on reflection seemed to be the prison daddy – spoke excellent english and told me that I had nothing to worry about – if I didn’t start any trouble, I’d be fine. Except I couldn’t see, or understand anyone, or work out how the fuck people live in a country where it is more than 45 degrees celsius all day every day.

The first couple of weeks were the most difficult as I couldn’t see anything, as my glasses had been smashed when I was arrested. I’m really very short-sighted, but thankfully a friend knew where I had last had my eyes tested and she sorted me out some new specs and sent them over to Greece. The day they arrived was one of the best days I had – hey, I could read! If only I had some books! And its nice to recognise people in the corridor and not fall over their feet.

How did the hunger strike come about?

Kastro, one of the seven prisoners, wanted to start almost immediately in order for us to get bailed out of remand real quick, but we were told to wait a couple of months as the entire legal system in Greece grinds to a halt over the summer. So we had time to prepare ourselves: you can’t just go from a normal diet to a hunger strike.

We ate well over the summer but then started reducing our intake, stopping eating red meat, then dairy products, then pasta, then bread, then vegetables and so on, until in the last weeks before the hunger strike was due to begin in October, we survived on just fruit juice. So we had already lost a fair bit of weight by the time we officially notified the prison governor of the start of the hunger strike.

Can you tell us something about the solidarity campaign that was forming in Britain and elsewhere? How did this affect you, the defendants?

It was vital for us in so many ways. Some things were just practical, like paying money into our prison accounts so we could buy extras from the shop. The campaign grew rapidly, so by the time the hunger strike started there were meetings, assemblies, demonstrations, occupations all over Greece, every day.

The London-based solidarity campaign were doing benefits, direct action, media interviews daily. The solidarity campaigns provided us with direct material assistance, and more importantly, hope. We never felt alone.

I received stacks of letters and books – writing to prisoners is so important, even if you don’t have much to say. I’d get letters from places like Chile, with a photo of a solidarity demonstration outside the Greek embassy in Santiago. Writing to prisoners always sends hope, a message from somewhere else, an understanding of the prisoners’ solitude.

What were your best and worst prison experiences?

They happened simultaneously: at the end of the hunger strike, we were suddenly told we were being released, and then we were told a minute later that our lovers and our friends had been arrested outside the prison. And there was a good chance that Kastro would be arrested by immigration police because they thought he was an illegal.

So we pushed these carts with our belongings, clothes, books and headed for the exit of Korydallos prison in Athens. And there are beautiful gardens, immaculate green lawns, flower beds all the way up to the main gate.

This is the way that visitors come through: and there are dozens of rabbits hopping across the grass, eating the flowers. When we see this, we also know that there could be hundreds of riot police outside the prison gates. It was a strange walk, knowing you’re walking towards the prison exit, but at the same time we had no idea what waited for us on the other side.

How long were you locked up in total, and how did it feel being released?

I was arrested on 21 June and released on bail five months later on 27 November 2003. My hunger strike had lasted the last 53 days. We were bailed but had to stay in Greece: this lasted a few months, until the charges against us were dropped in February 2004.

The night after our release there was a benefit party at Villa Amalias, a squat in Athens. We all went along but ended up being overwhelmed by how people are having a great celebration for our freedom, and they know everything about us through the solidarity campaign, but at the same time we don’t really know anyone. Being lonely in a crowd of five hundred people.

Most of the ex-prisoners ended up sitting upstairs in a quiet room because, certainly for me, I wasn’t ready to deal with that many people in one hit. I needed time to think about real life again, to start eating again, though being careful about what we ate so as to not over-stress our digestive systems. Lots of noodle soup.

Can you explain what happened during the first trial in 2008?

I got a call in autumn 2005 from my lawyer saying that the prosecutor had appealed against the original decision to drop the charges. There were a lot of legal arguments and appeals from both defence and prosecution over the next few years, until in the end a trial date was set for January 2008.

My lawyer had said it wasn’t necessary for me to attend the trial, which was perhaps not a bright idea because I was convicted on all counts, possession and use of explosives – the molotovs, resisting arrest and riot. I was sentenced to eight and a half years prison, suspended until the Appeal trial which determines your final sentence. Three others of the original seven prisoners were also convicted and given similar sentences. Since we found out about the new trial date we have had a lot of preparation to do to get it right this time.

What are your feelings about the upcoming trial in January?

I had got psyched up for the appeal trial to take place in September recently, but for various reasons it got delayed until January 2011: its frustrating but at the same time the delay gives us more time to work on our defence, and to raise funds to cover the court costs. The lawyers are working for free but there are court expenses that have to be paid.

How would you describe the Greek anarchist scene? Compared to the English?

In the major cities you see anarchist graffiti everywhere, and anarchist ideas seem to have a higher profile there. At the same time, their society is deeply polarised. The movement there is based on lots of small local groups that from time to time work together, or sometimes against each other.

Here’s another example of the difference: in London we have Critical Mass bicycle rides to stop the traffic. In Athens, there are motorbike demonstrations, three hundred motos roaring up to the prison gates. After revving their engines and making an incredible amount of noise, they split but then regrouped and ended up outside the official residency of the prime minister of Greece, they got there before the pigs who turned up too late, and then gassed everyone, including themselves, because they had forgotten to put their own gas masks on. Anarchists in Greece get the job done.

Can you see a connection between the events of 2003 and the current economic and political situation in Greece?

The original slogans against the 2003 EU summit said “No to the Europe of bankers and bosses”. The same is true today. There are millions on strike against bankers’ austerity cuts across Europe, in Greece, in Germany, in France, everywhere. Our analysis of the conflict of interest between bosses, bankers and pigs on one side, and the working people on the other side has gained clarity in these years of capitalist crisis. We need to decide which side we are on. And also we have to be conscious of the consequences of resistance. They might beat us up, they might put us in prison, they might fuck us over for years. But the resistance is everywhere. And we wont stop.

Join the facebook page and support the Thessaloniki 4 Campaign and if your in London there’s a benefit on Saturday 27th November and more info here on how to help.

http://www.salonikisolidarity.org.uk/

Justice For Simon Chapman and the Thessaloniki 4!

The Thessaloniki 4 solidarity campaign group will hold a public meeting on 25 October 2010 at 7.30pm at the London Action Resource Centre (LARC) in Whitechapel, London E1.

Over a hundred people were arrested after a demonstration confronting the European Union summit, held in Thessaloniki in Greece in 2003. Seven people were imprisoned on remand and eventually began a hunger strike that lasted more than 50 days.

With the constant worldwide solidarity of thousands of people, in direct action, in occupations, demonstrations, benefits and struggle, the seven prisoners were released on bail and the charges were dropped.

Years passed. After appeals from the Prosecutor, the charges were reinstated, and when the first trial took place in January 2008, the four were found guilty and sentenced to prison sentences between 5 and 8 years.

The solidarity campaign in London, in Greece and around the world was one of the most powerful – and effective – struggles for the freedom of prisoners we ever experienced.

Eight years after the original arrests, the remaining four accused face their final appeal trial in January 2011. All four, charged with serious offences such as riot, possession and causing explosions, possession of weapons and resisting arrest, face sentences of more than five years, even though they were all beaten up, fitted up and framed.

We will present the latest news on the case and some short films that show what happened in 2003, and what could happen next.
LARC is found at 62 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1ES – map here

Lots happening this weekend: a Radical Workers Bloc will be joining the Union’s anti-cuts march tomorrow morning and the Anarchist Bookfair is being held at Queen Mary’s University on the Mile End.  Monday sees the above meeting,  whilst on Tuesday a re-invigorated Mad Pride will be holding Public Executions in Hyde Park.