Units for the Reinstatement of Order

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The Units for the Reinstatement of Order (Greek : Μονάδες Αποκατάστασης Τάξης, Monades Apokatastasis Taksis, MAT) are a special division of the Hellenic Police, whose primary and most famous role is that of riot control.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Hellenic Police

The Hellenic Police is the national police service and the one of the three Security forces of Greece. It is a very large agency with its responsibilities ranging from road traffic control to counter-terrorism. Its current chief is Police Lieutenant General Aristeidis Andrikopoulos.

Riot control measures used by police, military, or other security forces during a riot

Riot control refers to the measures used by police, military, or other security forces to control, disperse, and arrest people who are involved in a riot, demonstration, or protest. If a riot is spontaneous and irrational, actions which cause people to stop and think for a moment can be enough to stop it. However, these methods usually fail when there is severe anger with a legitimate cause, or the riot was planned or organized. Law enforcement officers or military personnel have long used less lethal weapons such as batons and whips to disperse crowds and detain rioters. Since the 1980s, riot control officers have also used tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and electric tasers. In some cases, riot squads may also use Long Range Acoustic Devices, water cannons, armoured fighting vehicles, aerial surveillance, police dogs or mounted police on horses. Officers performing riot control typically wear protective equipment such as riot helmets, face visors, body armor, gas masks and riot shields. However, there are also cases where lethal weapons are used to violently suppress a protest or riot, as in the Boston Massacre, Haymarket Massacre, Banana Massacre, Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Kent State Massacre, Soweto Uprising, Mendiola Massacre, Bloody Sunday (1905), Ponce massacre, Bloody Sunday (1972), Venezuelan Protest(2017), Tuticorin Massacre (2018)

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They were the first special police units founded in Greece. They were created to lift the burden from other bodies of police and armed forces from involvement in riots, illegal gatherings and demonstrations. The MAT are known as "matatzides" (Greek : ματατζήδες) or "matades" (Greek : ματάδες). The idea of creating them belongs to the junta-appointed Prime Minister Spyros Markezinis and the mandate to implement and create the first group was given in 1976 by the then Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis. The force was significantly augmented by Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, to eventually three times the original size under the Costas Simitis government. During the 1980s, the MAT lost favor and were temporarily substituted by the "Special Mission Units" (Μονάδες Ειδικών Αποστολών, MEA). [1] Since the early 1990s however, they resumed their role as the primary riot control units of the Police.

Spyros Markezinis Greek politician

Spyridon Markezinis or Markesinis was a Greek politician, longtime member of the Hellenic Parliament, and briefly the 169th Prime Minister of Greece during the aborted attempt at democratization of the Greek military regime in 1973.

Konstantinos Karamanlis Greek politician

Konstantinos G. Karamanlis, commonly anglicised to Constantine Karamanlis or just Caramanlis, was a four-time Prime Minister and twice President of the Third Hellenic Republic, and a towering figure of Greek politics, whose political career spanned much of the latter half of the 20th century.

Andreas Papandreou Greek politician

Andreas Georgios Papandreou was a Greek economist, a socialist politician and a dominant figure in Greek politics. The son of Georgios Papandreou, Andreas was a Harvard-trained academic. He served three terms as prime minister of Greece.

History

Men of MAT Greek riot police 1.jpg
Men of MAT

The suppression of the demonstrations until the dictatorship was done by policemen or gendarmes, only with clubs, with the assistance of special vehicles of the fire brigade, while only in serious cases the army intervened. There was no tear gas (which was then unknown in Greece), in extreme cases, warning shots were fired in the air, and rarely against the crowd. The Athens riots of 1960 led to the first investigations of other means to disrupt a demonstration. Three police officers Ilias Psychogios, Georgios Sambanis, and Theodoros Harlaftis were sent for training to the United States. The first would be responsible for the education of the MAT several years later, while the second would become commander of the body.

Greek military junta of 1967–1974 authoritarian rightist military regime in Greece

The Greek military junta of 1967–1974, commonly known as the Regime of the Colonels, or in Greece simply The Junta, The Dictatorship and The Seven Years, was a series of far-right military juntas that ruled Greece following the 1967 Greek coup d'état led by a group of colonels on 21 April 1967. The dictatorship ended on 24 July 1974 under the pressure of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The fall of the junta was followed by the Metapolitefsi, and the establishment of the current Third Hellenic Republic.

Greece republic in Southeast Europe

Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic, also known as Hellas, is a country located in Southern and Southeast Europe, with a population of approximately 11 million as of 2016. Athens is the nation's capital and largest city, followed by Thessaloniki.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

In his memoirs, Spyros Markezinis, junta-appointed Prime Minister in 1973, argues that if he had time to make the MAT, then the events of the Athens Polytechnic uprising, which led to the downfall of the junta would have possibly been avoided.

Athens Polytechnic uprising massive demonstration of popular rejection of the Greek military junta of 1967-1974

The Athens Polytechnic uprising occurred in November 1973 as a massive demonstration of popular rejection of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974. The uprising began on 14 November 1973, escalated to an open anti-junta revolt, and ended in bloodshed in the early morning of 17 November after a series of events starting with a tank crashing through the gates of the Polytechnic.

The MAT formed at the behest of Karamanlis shortly after the fall of the dictatorship, by ministerial order. The idea of their name belonged to the later Minister Anastasios Balkos. This unit consisted of 150 men from various subdivisions of Police, to whom later men of Special Forces troops were added. A second unit was created in Thessaloniki, while the Greek Gendarmerie manned a third for a period of time.

Anastasios Balkos Greek politician, soldier and writer

Anastasios Balkos was a Greek Army lieutenant general and conservative politician, who served as Greece's Minister of Public Order and as an intelligence officer in the Greek secret services.

Thessaloniki City in Macedonia, Greece

Thessaloniki, also familiarly known as Thessalonica, Salonica or Salonika, is the second-largest city in Greece, with over 1 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, and the capital of Greek Macedonia, the administrative region of Central Macedonia and the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace. Its nickname is η Συμπρωτεύουσα, literally "the co-capital", a reference to its historical status as the Συμβασιλεύουσα (Symvasilévousa) or "co-reigning" city of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, alongside Constantinople.

These units were trained by Ilias Psychogios, according to his textbooks and experience from the training he had received in the US several years earlier.

In 1978, after the unsuccessful intervention of the police at the home of anarchist doctor Vassilis Tsironis, which resulted in his death, the Special Mission Units (MEA) were created. After the rise of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement to power in 1981 MEA substituted MAT for some time. The MEA wore a brown-green uniform with turtleneck sweaters, but sometimes they appeared plainclothes. The MEA were abolished by the 1990-1993 New Democracy conservative government, because its officers were mostly PASOK supporters.

In the 1990s, the group YMET were created as supportive in squads of MAT as well as the Group of Crime Prevention and Suppression (OPKE), similar to but more heavily equipped riot police and with more specialized training.

Equipment

The MAT have special equipment to suppress demonstrations. The main and most visible feature is the plexiglas shield. Attached by hand using leather belt on the inside of the elbow and grip on the palm. The clubs are rubber and of two types, one short and a longer one, which has internal strings which allow it to stretch when lowered, while to retract when raised in order to cause more pain. Sometimes the baton is used upside down (i.e., holding the rubber part with hold-out), to cause greater injury, which is illegal.

The helmet is heavy and has a special visor to protect the neck and face. In the back of the helmet there are stickers stuck with characteristic color and shape (red or yellow triangle, square, etc.) for each squad, in order to easily identify and regroup. The uniform is a military type, usually in khaki color. The first years after their creation, the MAT used the simple uniform of the Greek police. The MAT do not bear their identification number, or any other personal identification, and are thus not identifiable.

In recent years, the MAT have been equipped with stockings, plastic material and other components that protect the torso of the body (mainly shoulders and arms) from hits. Each man also bears his service weapon, gas masks (in backpack hanging on the shoulder), a sufficient number of tear gas and flash-bangs, handcuffs. Some of the squad members have a fire each. One or two in each squad have a special tear gas spray (known as "bellows") and do not carry a shield. When the platoon is on hold or perform custodial tasks, riot the MAT wear black berets instead of helmets.

The commanding officer of each squad does not bear all of the above equipment (shield, protective body) to be able to move easily and quickly in the field and have full oversight of the development of the company. Instead the officer has a radio and is in constant contact with the headquarters in the Police Department.

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References

  1. Ta Nea, 20/11/1985