Midday. Friday, September 21, 2018, district of Omonia, Athens. Everything is going well in the capital market. Affluent customers and shop owners continue their efforts to earn money until, in a nearby street, noise is heard. | By Alkistis. A (Trad: Julie B.)
A man is trapped in an empty jewelry shop. In his attempt to escape through the broken shop window, the owner and the neighboring merchants immediately assume that he is a thief. They kick him in the head before the official violence specialist, greek police, gets involved.
A few minutes later, the young person, Zack, leaves his last breath, handcuffed inside the ambulance.
During the attack, passers-by, through their apathy did nothing to prevent the assassination. The violence of the incident reveals one thing: the absolute protection of the right of individual property… at all costs. A barbaric and hateful attack over a person incapable of threatening anyone or defending himself.
And the fury is just beginning. The titles of newspapers are constantly circulating : “Thief was killed robbing a shop”, “thief”, “fagot”, “thug” “trans”, “HIV positive” … Here are some of the adjectives invoked by the media, directly relayed on social media where commentators are vomiting homophobia, toxicophobia and transphobia.
To justify the assassination, the murderers and the silent spectators hastened to condemn him by accusing him of all the evils. In this absurd theater, the media want Zack in the role of the “violent thief”, who armed with a knife, threatened the property of a “poor jeweler” in self-defense.
Each adjective used to describe Zack/ Zackie Oh determines the reaction, level of shock and emotions that will occur in greek society. Each identity disorientates the attention of the main fact: a person was murdered at midday, in full center of Athens. Each reaction was based on an identity and the fact that it could justify an assassination or define at what level it could potentially affect us.
Finally, the results of
the toxicological tests and all the evidence presented showed that Zack was not
under the influence of drugs when he entered the jeweler’s shop, and that he
had no intention of stealing. According to some video recordings, Zack would
have tried to escape an aggressor, and it would find a refuge in the jeweler’s
Should we then assume that Zack was wrongfully murdered? Unfairly? Should we assume that if he were a thief and a drug addict, he would have been killed fairly? Is it really important to know if he was a thief? A drug addict? A homosexual? Trans? HIV positive?
For a society that legitimizes violence in the name of individual property, it is. For a society that believes that people who have no place in its norms should be excluded, it is.
This is the most extreme result of a bourgeois mentality that has set up a value system centered on the fear of the marginalized (a marginality for which she is largely responsible). A deeply rooted fear in greek society, which considers a threat all that is foreign or “different”.
Thus, a murder obtains different interpretations, based on the identity of the victim and on the belief that individual property is more valuable than human life. In this case, human life is even less valuable if it’s the life of a homosexual or an addict.
Zackie-oh / Zack, an active member of the LGBTQI community and activist, was a person who had collected many identities on his face, condemning those who put them aside. He was openly HIV-positive, proud drag queen, homosexual and antifascist and he had the courage to fight for his rights and those of others. The response of the movement and LGBTQI community was immediate. Manifestations, mobilizations and numerous texts have been written to analyze the event from different angles.
Which identity prevented us from reacting at
the moment of the attack?
And which identity allowed us to be touched, moved, sad or angry?
After all, for which identity was he murdered?
Here are the facts: a man was murdered by
bosses, the state, cops, media and silent spectators.
Excerpt from an interview with Zack Kostopoulos – Zackie Oh, in 2017:
“What’s sad after me is that there may be people
around, but they don’t react. As they did during the last two attacks I
suffered against my physical integrity. This is, if you asked me what I would
like to change in society, since fascists will not stop being fascists, it
would be when you see someone being attacked don’t look the other way. I’m not
telling you to start beating them, because I’m not comfortable with that
either, but you can make your voice heard. Do something, react in a certain
What do you think is responsible for the “apathy of the world”, asks Maria Kamini. “It can certainly be fear, we have learned to be indifferent, we have a bit of a no intervention mentality. But it shouldn’t be like that because tomorrow it can come to you, your child, your friend and I guess you would have liked someone to help him” Zack Kostopoulos-Zackie Oh, 2017
Nobody helped. Nobody made his voice heard. Neither in 2017 nor on Friday, September 21, 2018. But then, we all shouted.