panos skoulidas – athens on fire


victims of police tear gas attack  (below), and  fires started by protesters (above), choke  the citizens  of Athens as riots grip the city



Athens on Fire:  Photographs and text by Panos Skoulidas                                                           Athens, Greece   December 7, 2009



point blank..
His name was ALEXIS…15 year old…
Last year was on fire for a whole month…
A year later…in his memory..
All schools are closed..Thousands of students protesting in the middle of Athens..
The “Kratos”…the state … ( GOVERNMENT )named all those students as “ANARCHISTS”…
i was briefly detained two nights ago… but my American citizenship helped me out..
The police ( ordered by the Greek government )…are out of control…
let me explain:..They stop you in the middle of the street…ask for id or passport..
if you  do not have one you get arrested..
if you  are an are jailed for 3 months at least…
Greek police with no authorization .
interrogates, harasses and jails “illegal” immigrants…
If you are a student , poor…or look “weird”  you are immediately detained and charged as a terrorist..
All that because Greece is close to bankruptcy…
Despair,high rates of unemployment… corrupted politicians…
dirty church leaders…etc..
If you dare to protest….then you go to jail…
you are a terrorist…
Greece is the only European country that still send to jail drug users…
The only country in the western world that fails to understand that drug use is a disease and not a crime..
What a shame for the country that gave birth to Socrates and invented Democracy..


Panos Skoulidas


(editor’s note: the above photo and caption provided by Skoulidas and is considered an editorial..few facts on this are known by Burn at the moment of publication..dah)

Associated Press report:

121 Responses to “panos skoulidas – athens on fire”

  • Wise text Panos. I always like to see between your weird behavior sometimes, this huge empathy and humanity. I always see it in your photos even if sometimes they seems to look “ordinary”.


  • You are great photographer Panos.

  • Not sure they are tear gassed on this particular picture. Isn’t the smoke coming from the burning rubbish on the right?

  • John..:)
    i could barely see at that point… Tear gas , fires and all was happening eyes half closed ,..
    no breath…camera on f5.6…between 2 feet to almost infinity the whole time…

  • it could have also been from a “souvlaki”-“pita gyros” stand next by…
    but still the tears were really chemically induced…check the photos before and after…
    but as i was talking with DAH ( skyping )…a sec ago i need to find accurate numbers about the detainees..
    give me a sec…
    checking BBC…& greek media..

  • Tear gas was used for sure. But the people on this picture don’t seem to be affected by it. When you are gassed you don’t stand still like that, and tear gas has another density.

    from BBC:

    “…Clashes also continued overnight at Athens Polytechnic, where masked youths emerged to hurl rocks and bottles at police, who responded with tear gas…”

    “….Clashes between police and protesters continued overnight in Athens as it marked the first anniversary of the fatal police shooting of a teenager.
    Riot police fired volleys of tear gas and fought running street battles with demonstrators who pelted them with rocks and set fire to rubbish bins.
    However, the protests have been nothing like the riot scenes of last year, a BBC correspondent says.
    Six thousand police have been deployed on the streets of the Greek capital.
    At one point about 200 masked demonstrators were holed up in Athens’s neoclassical university building, smashing marble chunks off the steps to use as missiles against police.


    Malcolm Brabant, BBC News, Athens
    Police officers corralled demonstrators into restricted areas and denied them the chance to run amok. Snatch squads on motorbikes roamed the streets and carried out a number of arrests.
    Some officers were pulled from their machines, and there were reports of bike riding policemen lashing out at people with their truncheons.
    The government has carried out a number of reforms designed to give the police a more human face. But these clashes will not have won them any friends amongst Greek youths.
    Many young people, who had their first taste of rebellion last year, remain angry with the authorities.
    The overwhelming perception of teenagers and university students is that the force remains institutionally violent.
    In pictures: Greek violence
    City officials said the university dean suffered head injuries when youths raided the building and was rushed to hospital.
    Clashes also continued overnight at Athens Polytechnic, where masked youths emerged to hurl rocks and bottles at police, who responded with tear gas.
    Earlier in Thessaloniki – Greece’s second-largest city – demonstrators threw petrol bombs at police and smashed the storefront of a Starbucks cafe, Associated Press reported.
    To head off trouble, riot police carried out a series of raids on Saturday across Athens, arresting more than 150 people, reports said.
    The BBC’s Malcolm Brabant in Athens says they have been forming snatch squads to deal with breakaway groups apparently intent on causing damage.
    Greece’s government warned it would have a zero tolerance policy towards violence.
    “We want to send a clear message, we won’t tolerate a repeat of the violence and terror scene in central Athens, we won’t hand Athens to vandals,” said Citizen Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis…”

    AND JOHN..SINCE U DONT BELIEVE ME…here is the link:

  • The picture would be stronger without Panos’ editorial text — and people don’t walk through clouds of tear gas talking on their cell phones.

  • It’s not a matter of whether or not tear gas was used, but whether or not the picture depicts the use of tear gas.

  • ok…how about this photo John???? ( PHOTO NUMBER 38)


    also this one: ( NUMBER 44 )?

    IS IT STILL THE garbage fire?..or the souvlaki stand?

    why do this folks dont run? why they sit or stand still?
    Sorry John ..not to yank my chain…but obviously u dont know what a greek warrior is all aBOUT!!!
    Greeks dont run John..greeks dont run…
    big hug

  • Powerful stuff, Panos.

    It is depressing, however, to see so many there–ostensibly protesting an unjust killing of a teenager–all too willing to act like complete assholes! Destroy random properties, start uncontrolled fires, throw stones at and otherwise antagonize the riot police… some of whom are more than happy to have a reason to go all Rodney King on their asses! This honors the boy how?

  • people don’t walk through clouds of tear gas talking on their cell phones.

    no, people pee on their pants and surrender…
    Preston..what was the last time u been in a “real” demo?
    Rhetorical question..

  • …Preston boy…
    people got hijacked on the 9/11 flight to N.Y twin towers and they were still
    calling on their cellphones….
    but..yeah i know..i know…its news for you..

  • Michael..
    its so funny…man..
    i will post BBC..CNN asap..
    and i have folks ( in my ass ) telling me that a souvlaki stand caused “tears”…and suffocations…
    im not Nachtwey…
    from the crowd gathered there i was probably the one SCARED the most…
    but yes.. if BBC lies..then i lie too..
    Folks think that if cops starting attacking with cayenne tear gas..then..
    everyone will run and beg…
    jesus ….

  • “…Civil Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis defended tougher tactics used by police, despite criticism from a left-wing opposition party which said the government’s response had been heavy-handed.

    “Police detentions, when justified, are not illegal in a democratic society. Neither is it illegal for judicial officials to press charges,” the minister said…”

  • BBC reports:
    …Riot police fired volleys of tear gas and fought running street battles with demonstrators who pelted them with rocks and set fire to rubbish bins…

  • PANOS…

    send me the picture of the guys rubbing their eyes after the tear gas please..NOW…i will post it too….let’s get this right…on a shoot like this everything has to be really really accurate…to the wire…your text is at the moment editorial, but i will keep checking the facts also thru bbc, human rights watch etc etc

  • Panos…

    I hear ya. Big crowds going nuts. Emotions. Anger. Hatred. Sadness.


  • Panos, relax. No one is saying that there is no tear gas in Athens. But the people in your picture do not look as if they are in distress. If you want to claim a wild, chaotic scene, then your picture should reveal it. We can all read the news reports. But if you want your picture to contribute to the understanding of the events in Athens, then viewers should not be confused by it, and it should support the claims you make.

    Bottom line — this is not a picture that best represents what you are seeing.

  • Michael..
    yes it is depressing..
    i was telling friends and colleagues here that if this would happened in LA..
    ahhh tons of people would have been shot dead…
    but here is not LA…
    U see.. students still have the right of “asylum” ( lock themselves in the Polytechnic or University and fire back..)
    Now the question is: ( Do we still need the “asylum”?)
    In the age of people still need to get locked in an institution and throw stones?)
    i agree with u on this one..
    They just abuse their democratic rights like they do on a soccer game…
    but still..
    cops ( government ) here are also abusive…
    so its a false circle..:(

  • problem..i agree..

  • Panos, don’t become one of them and start playing policeman with the viewers. John was referring to the posted image not the urls.

    The thing about protests, spent my twenties and thirties as a regular in real time it is partly truth and partly fiction but we get the idea that stuff sucks big time. In the heat of the situations many forget why they are there that includes all walks of life protesters, the police, photographers, news hounds etc …………then we get angry

    I am sure John is not naive as to think that tear gas hasn’t been used.

  • the only thing that pisses me of though is that i heard about 900 detainees and i cant proved it..
    till last night the number was up to 400 something… and if the todays number of 190 is correct then its closer to 600 than 900… and that i should double or triple check…

  • Just to be precise… I don’t think I read in Panos’ editorial that this picture showed people being gassed. The title even says “Athens on Fire.” Not gassed.

  • Imants…
    thanks for the opp u giving me to apologize to John..( and Preston )
    i will gladly take it..
    its just my eyes are still red..nose running and im sure its not the flu..
    and yes you are “observations” today really made me angry …
    i should know better…

  • ALL…

    relax…everybody is correct…we are going to publish an additional picture in a few minutes giving another view…i posted the AP version on the bottom of Panos’ report…another picture or two ought to give us an idea of the scene…we have seen so many protest pictures , that i cannot make myself publish another protest i am trying to show something a bit different than the norm, yet still fall within the guidelines of accuracy…certainly all the pictures were shot at the event…and depending on which way you look a different scenario unfolds…

  • rumors abound at happenings like this.. the truth is out there..
    glad harvey is changing the photo though.. even though the there is no question that the chiaroscuro with the smoke is good.. it-s better to show the after effects of tear gas with certainty than show an ambiguous snap.

  • Panos. Just report what you see. Shoot what you see. and try not to get popped.
    you are in a position to be right on top of this. so just stay focussed and do your job. Everybodys with you on this.


  • Michael..
    u r right.. i got “trapped” and carried away..
    it is actually “athens on fire”..
    not “athens on tear gas”..
    what am i defending?
    although my eyes still red..and i havent smoked any weed either..
    thanks again..

  • glad harvey is changing the photo though.

    what photo is changed by Harvey? when, what, where?

  • Hey it’s all not bad, the heart runs faster, the mind plays games, feelings surface, hair stands on ends and there is a feeling of being alive. Better that than pretending to be a surveillance camera……. the funny thing about protests, there is always a bit of fun to have amidst all the mayhem

  • rumors abound at happenings like this.. the truth is out there..

    bro…truth is not “out there”..its out “here”
    open up though…dont be scared

    By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS, Associated Press Writer – Mon Dec 7, 8:59 am ET
    ATHENS, Greece – Masked youths smashed store windows and hurled rocks and firebombs at riot police who responded with tear gas Monday in a second day of violence during commemorations of last year’s fatal police shooting of a teenager.
    The death last year of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos led to some of the worst rioting Greece had ever seen, with gangs of youths smashing, looting and burning stores in cities across the country for two weeks, protesting heavy-handed police tactics.
    Monday’s clashes broke out during a demonstration by about 3,000 people, mostly high-school students, through the center of Athens. Several dozen youths at the tail end of the march attacked riot police with rocks, firebombs and firecrackers, smashing some of the bus stops, telephone booths and storefronts not damaged in Sunday’s demonstration.
    Protesters injured a passer-by who attempted to intervene, beating the middle-aged man unconscious. Police detained at least three youths.
    Some demonstrators tried to prevent clashes, shouting at the groups of youths instigating the violence, but to little avail.
    “I’m here to play at beating up the police. What’s your problem?” one young rioter retorted to a student who admonished him for causing trouble.
    Demonstrators also scrawled anti-police graffiti and stenciled a photograph of Grigoropoulos on store windows and walls along the demonstration route, while others set fire to garbage cans overflowing due to a strike by municipal workers.
    But unlike the previous day, police on Monday surrounded the buildings of Athens University in the center of the city, preventing protesters from entering the campus — which police are barred from — and launching attacks from there. Masked youths had occupied the building for several hours on Sunday, smashing through the locked door and injuring the university’s dean, who remained hospitalized Monday.
    Minor clashes also broke out during a march of about 2,000 people in Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki in the north, where riot police fired tear gas to disperse youths pelting them with rocks.
    Police said Monday that 784 people had been detained, including 136 people who were arrested, for public order offenses in connection with the demonstrations across Greece during the 48 hours from Saturday until early Monday. Those detained included 58 foreigners, including people from Turkey, France, Germany, Italy and Albania.
    Five demonstrators and 16 police were injured in Athens during Sunday’s demonstration — including a woman who was seriously hurt when she was struck by a police officer who lost control of his motorbike as he charged into the capital’s central Syntagma Square.
    Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said Monday that the police officer involved was under investigation, and had visited the injured woman in hospital.
    Still, the two-day violence was far more limited than the extensive riots that gripped the country last year immediately after Grigoropoulos’ death. The new Socialist government, which was voted into power in early October, had vowed a zero tolerance approach to troublemakers during this year’s demonstrations.
    “Those seeking a repeat (of 2008) did not achieve their aim,” Petalotis said. “The message is that the cities where protests took place are not defenseless.”

    ohh i know..u think its my “truth”..
    then click:

  • my mistake.. harvey is adding a photo and has changed the caption..

  • Police said Monday that 784 people had been detained,…( from above link )..

    soooooooooooooooo ok…not 900 people detained..
    ONLY 784….my bad..

    now any lawyer out there wants to help?
    or just bullshit????????????????

  • no panos – i-ve been reading the bbc, as i-m sure most of us have..
    no one has disputed the facts of whats going on whatsoever – only the photo caption concerning tear gas.

  • the funny thing about protests, there is always a bit of fun to have amidst all the mayhem

    i agree on this one too Imants…
    big hug

  • PANOS..

    not changing a photo..adding a photo…stop writing here for a minute and just send me that second picture i mentioned…thanks…..pls send soonest as in NOW….

  • Panos,
    great images! Thank you for showing this to us. Good work!
    To me the question is not much about tear gas or only a burning pita – the smoke to me looks like the fog that youth all over Europe are confronted with. In Greece we see the escalation of the protests in an extremely violent way. But right now there are students protesting in many cities in Europe. So I see Panos picture as more universal image. The future of the young generation is full of uncertainty, full of fog and smoke that makes the view ahead into the future very dizzy and unclear.
    In Germany we have created a word for this current generation which is called “Generation Praktikum” or in my translation it is the generation that lives for unpaid interns (hm, difficult to translate. Praktikum means they work for little money to gain experience, but in reality it is simply cheap labour or explotation). To get a well paid job is difficult because the people who have a job in a safe position do everything to hold onto it very tight, even though all they do is to sharpen the pen once a day. Okay, I am a bit over the top and exaggerate, but I hope that in my words there is some truth. The outlook for students is very unclear and this causes this big frustration and the riots we see right now.
    In Germany students have to pay quite a high amount of money every semester term – student fees. At the university where I teach every student has to pay 500 Euros every semester term plus 250 Euro for insurance and a transport ticket. A lot of money and this raises the question if going to university is a possibility for everyone or only the privilege for those who have the money? The main issue however in Germany right now is the restricted, school system like way of the Bachelor and Master programm which most students don’t agree with.
    Another aspect that I see is the great disappointment in politicians. Maybe the greek politicians are the worst, but without doubt the disappointment among students about German politicians is pretty high as well.
    Yes, I am part of the university system and yet I tell my students to ask for their rights – in a peaceful way – and go out and do something because it is their future.
    Sad to see that people get arrested for all this. Some people seem to have big fear.
    Panos, I documented riots many times and it was always very emotional and I found it difficult to stay neutral. Keep shooting, keep a open mind (if this is possible) and please be careful. Images are important, but personal safety as well!!!
    Many words – please excuse if I got carried away…
    Panos, good luck and be safe!

  • Praktikum means they work for little money to gain experience, but in reality it is simply cheap labour or exploitation) ..sounds like a every generational thing…… goes by names like apprenticeship, work experience etc and the best one is ” give us a hand with this please” ………. even the “I want everything now” is nothing new we are just aware of it to a greater extent, damn those pesky kids down the road.

    Unies, colleges, schools etc have always been institutions of discontent, as a good member of those places it was always a feather in the cap to fail a year or two atleast once while playing the political animal

    To the credit of the younger it is great to see the “good” protest back in fashion anarchy just goes for the ride as there is nowhere else to hang out ………….

  • To the credit of the younger it is great to see the “good” protest back in fashion anarchy just goes for the ride as there is nowhere else to hang out ………….

    wisely said..

  • It is one hell of a photo, Panos, whatever the story behind it.

    I know from personal experience how hard it is to stay centered and focused when you’re in the middle of a police/protestors clash. Tear gas, smoke from fires, yelling, screaming, the sounds of running feet and people being hit and beaten. It’s so easy to see the riot-geared police as the enemy, but from reading the BBC reports, there’s been violence perpetrated by both sides. The question is: Are you, Panos, a participant or a photographer? Are you documenting or acting/reacting? I know you were tear-gassed too, but that comes with the territory. Capa says “Get closer!” Well you did. And this is what happens. It’s tough, but just try to keep your cool so you can get the shots. Not TOTALLY cool. After all, you ARE Panos, a hot-headed, big-hearted Greek! But if you get too emotionally involved, your ability to document will be compromised. And then you run the danger of having your photos discounted.

    But stick with it. Just next time bring some protection against the tear gas (check out, and stay cool. Shoot, shoot, shoot…your camera not your mouth ;=)))

    love you

  • He the Korean students and police made the protest into an artform during the 80’s and 90’s, now it has since become a national institution. luvit!

  • Are you, Panos, a participant or a photographer? Are you documenting or acting/reacting?

    super great question…

    i definitely didnt pick up a stone to throw towards a cop… hurt the “little” guy?
    thats a cops job…a cop is the one shooting the 15 year olds..
    nahh.. not me…
    but am i trying deliberately or at least subconsciously to hurt the corrupted greek government?..hmmmm
    i dont know…
    do i agree with the broken store displays..and loss of property?
    nahh not at all..
    most of the protesters were yelling anti-american slogans and old school silly communist crap…
    that made me laugh..not angry…
    but it all started with the murder of a 15 year old..
    yes..that made me take sides..

  • Nacthwey says he channels the anger or frustration or fear he feels with a situation into his photography. Otherwise he becomes useless as someone documenting the events. Although, Panos, I’m pretty sure you’ll never be a totally objective observer. :)

  • Although, Panos, I’m pretty sure you’ll never be a totally objective observer. :)


  • Don’t necessarily be objective but be accurate… And get closer. I didn’t see pictures where you were really close when the ‘action’ took place.

  • Hi John Vink
    How much closer? It seems Panos is close to what he wants to show. And it seems that Panos wants to show what regular newspapers aren’t.
    I just like to understand – no offense at all :)

    Panos – am i right in my assumptions?

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