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Wuppertal: Giorgos Zantiotis and his death are dragged through the mud [Germany]

Wuppertal. Germany. On November 1, 2021 Giorgos Zantiotis died in a cell in the district court of Wuppertal. It was not until November 7 that the Wuppertal public prosecutor’s office and the Wuppertal police confirmed his death. Not on their own initiative, but when asked by journalists. Since then, Giorgios Zantiotis and his death have been dragged through the mud.

Originally published by Sunzi Bingfa. Written and translated by Riot Turtle.

The news came through detours, the death of Giorgos Zantiotis was made public on Athens indymedia on November 6. In the days before, comrades from Wuppertal and some other cities in Germany had been informed. Several days of research were done, but neither a press release from the Wuppertal police nor information from the Wuppertal public prosecutor’s office about the death of Giorgos was found. Now journalists were also informed and some of them asked the police and the public prosecutor’s office in Wuppertal on November 7. The police confirmed the death. On the same day, the public prosecutor’s office in Wuppertal stated that “the death of Giorgos had not been considered ‘relevant to the media'”. In addition, the public prosecutor’s office said they had wanted to protect the relatives.

The Wuppertal police published press releases between November 1 and 7 about traffic accidents and a pedestrian who had fled the scene of an accident; in contrast to the death of a person in police custody, traffic accidents seem to be “relevant to the media”. The prosecutor’s office further informed that in the meantime there had been an autopsy and that the death of Giorgos was not related to the way the police acted.

Translated with (free versionOn the evening of November 7, about 100 people spontaneously take to the streets in Wuppertal. The demo walks past the Hofkamp police station and then moves to the district court, the place where Giorgos died on November 1. The cops are present in large numbers, but keep a low profile, probably wanting to avoid further media reports of police violence.

It quickly becomes clear that the public prosecutor’s office has everything else in mind than protecting the family. A joint press release of the Wuppertal police and public prosecutor’s office announced for Monday, November 8, appears already on November 7. As is so often the case when there is a death in connection with a police action, it immediately becomes clear where the journey is supposed to go. The press release has the title: “25-year-old man dies in police custody of the Wuppertal police – autopsy reveals no evidence of third party negligence”.

The brutality during the arrest of Giorgos, which can be clearly seen on the video published on indymedia (see above), is not addressed by the cops and the prosecution. Neither is the fact that several cops are kneeling on him, including on his stomach, even though Giorgos had stomach surgery two months before his death. All this was not addressed by the Wuppertal cops, nor by the prosecution. “The autopsy reveals no evidence of third party negligence”“, this is the sentence that is supposed to distract from the responsibility of the cops. As it has happened so often before. Oury Jalloh sends his regards.

As always, the Hagen police investigates, just as the Wuppertal police always investigates death cases related to the Hagen police. Many media quote the public prosecutor’s office that this is done for reasons of neutrality. The police investigates thus time and again against itself and all are surprised about the fact that finally a cop is never held responsible. While Chief Public Prosecutor Wolf-Tilman Baumert keeps saying that he wanted to protect the family, he keeps distracting from what happened during the arrest. Giorgos is thereby criminalized by him. Drugs had been involved. The goal is to dehumanize Giorgos after his death. Baumert’s message is: drugs → criminal → the victim’s own fault. The goal is again: distract from the responsibility of state power. He also quotes again and again from the autopsy report, at a time when the family have neither seen the body, nor the autopsy report. Many media outlets (not all!) adopt the narrative of the state prosecution without bothering to talk to witnesses or otherwise seriously researching what happened on November 1.

On Thursday, November 11, the Interior Committee of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia spoke for 10 minutes about Giorgos. Minister of the Interior Reul does not want the death of Giorgos to be widely discussed. In the interior committee also alcohol consumption is mentioned in addition to heart failure by drugs. There was 0.01 per mille alcohol in the blood of Giorgos. 0.01 per mille, thus nothing. Nevertheless, the opposition parties have no questions. Reason of state. Because there are many questions. The sister of Giorgos filed a criminal charges the day before, because she has quite a different memory of the arrest of Giorgos.

Translation of Tweet above: The sister of #GiorgosZantiotis came to the microphone very briefly. She said, “There was no fight between us. I just want to know what happened.”With her statement, she completely contradicts the account of the police and state prosecution. #w1311

According to senior prosecutor Baumert, the sister had a fight with Giorgos before his arrest. The sister vehemently denied this during a speech at the demonstration on November 13. About 400 people had again marched to the police station at Hofkamp, after which a memorial was set up at the district court. The cops again kept a low profile during the demonstration itself after a brief show of force to intimidate in the Ölberg district (a leftwing and anarchist stronghold in Wuppertal), in the afternoon. Since the Wuppertal police have already rocked in for less in demonstrations, they probably don’t want any new bad headlines. Antagonistic splinters are present at the demo, but decide to restrain themselves with direct actions out of respect for the grieving family members who are present. At the memorial, there is silence for a minute, after which an elderly woman of Greek descent takes the microphone and says, among other things, “That was murder!”

At the Hofkamp police station, demonstrators and police officers stand face to face. In speeches it is said that there are particularly often brutal operations from this station. Also #GiorgosZantioti has been arrested in the area of this station. #w1311

The public prosecutor’s office and the cop media are dragging Giorgos through the mud posthumously. The investigation of the third death in 2 years in connection with “police actions” in Wuppertal, but will not come to nothing. Many activists have not only promised the family their support, they are also already actively investigating the circumstances of how Giorgos died.

The comrades from Wuppertal would like to see many solidarity actions in and outside of Wuppertal, because the struggle against the structural violence of the cops and for the clarification of what happened on November 1 must be intensified. After it came to demonstrations and rallies in Wuppertal, there were also actions in Koblenz, Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main, on November 20th at 06:00 p. m. (18:00) there will be a demonstration in Berlin. The starting point will be Karl-Marx Platz.

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