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An Athens theatre will on Friday make another attempt to premiere a controversial play after Golden Dawn members, Orthodox priests and religious extremists prevented a performance of it on Thursday night.
About 100 protesters turned up at the Chytirio theatre on Iera Odos St, which is staging the play Corpus Christi by American playwright Terence McNally.
Viewing the play is “blasphemous” – it depicts Jesus and the apostles as gay men as a metaphor for the acceptance of the gay community in society – the protesters hurled racist and homophobic abuse at theatre goers and cast.
Among the crowd waving Greek flags, holding icons and crucifixes, singing the national anthem and shouting homophobic slogans were a number of Golden Dawn MPs, including Christos Pappas and Ilias Panayiotaros.
During the week, objectors had made two attempts in the courts to get an injunction halting the performance.
When a journalist for the Lifo newspaper tried to take photos of protesters tearing down posters for the play, he was attacked by the crowd, including a Golden Dawn MP.
The writer, Manolis Vamvounis, later tweeted about his ordeal:
“At the entrance of the theatre, there were Golden Dawn and priests tearing down the show posters and stepping on them. I took out my mobile to take pictures for the blog. 5 Golden Dawners and a cop surrounded me. They ask ‘Are you a journalist?’ I say “I write for lifo”, hoping to escape a beating. Quite the opposite. They pull me aside, call me ‘f*ggot’ and ‘queer’, pull my beard, spit in my face, hit me in the stomach. Cops nearby. I shout “They’re beating me, do something?” Reply : I’ve nothing, move along please. The cop’s wearing 3 stars. They put a lit cigarette in my pocket. A woman standing near warns me, in front of the cop. He pretends he hasn’t heard. I start to get scared, move away from the entrance. They shout after me ‘Go away, you dirty f*ggot, go suck someone’s c*ck!’ I turn back to observe. A known Golden Dawn MP follows me, punches me twice in the face, knocks me down. Downed, I lose my glasses. The Golden Dawn MP kicks me. The police are exactly 2 steps away. Their backs are turned. Repeatedly, I shout to the cop “THEY’RE PUNCHING ME, DO SOMETHING!” Back still turned, he walks away. The rest of them shouting at me next to the police officer “Cry, you pussy, queen, little girl” We pass dozens of cops hanging out. I tell them I was beaten at theatre entrance. They ignore me. One blows me a sarcastic kiss.” (Translated by @amaenad)
At another stage in the protest, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayiotaros hurled crude racist and homophobic abuse at theatregoers. A video of the incident shows him scream the following diatribe, in view of police:
You little c**t, wrap it up. Did you get that? Wrap it up you little fag**ts. You “sticking-it-in-the-a*s”, f**kers, actors my a*s. Yes, just keep staring at me, you little ho*ker. Your time is up. Film, go ahead film [me]. [Unclear] you are f*cked by the Pakistanis. You f*cking Albanian as*h*les, eh, you f*cking Albanian a*sholes. (Translated by @StratosAthens)
Police detained some of the protesters, but one of those detained was later pulled out of a police van by Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas, again while police looked on. The Omonia police station is now preparing a case against Pappas.
Government rushed to condemn the violence on Friday when Alternate Education & Religious Affairs Minister Costas Tzavaras spoke out against the incident, saying “art and culture are bound to their own rules, first of all to tolerance towards anyone who has and expresses a different opinion or view.”
“We must not allow censorship to take the place of the critic, nor the taking of justice in one’s own hands to replace justice,” he added.
“In a period when culture and art should be an antidote to the economic and social crisis, it is unacceptable that there are minorities that present themselves as self-styled guarantors of the social aesthetic and national order — as they see it — and attempt, through violence, to nullify and wipe out every view that is opposite to their own,” he said.
The Hellenic Actors Union also released a statement addressed to “whoever threatens freedom of expression.” The statement continues, “examination of contemporary social issues is the goal of our craft and of all artists. For this reason we are against whatever limits and controls our work…If art is censored, life is censored…Our art is a spiritual weapon which aims for the awakening of consciousness. We will never give up this weapon.”