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Documenta 14 Artists Voice Support for Greek Mayor Injured in Attack by Far Right

THESSALONIKI, GREECE—More than 120 participants of Documenta 14 have penned an open letter condemning the brutal assault of Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of Thessaloniki, Greece, by a far-right mob during a public event on May 19.

The seventy-five-year-old liberal politician, who is known as an outspoken advocate for multiculturalism, was attacked while attending a flag-lowering ceremony honoring Greeks who were slain by Turkish forces during World War I. Boutaris was pushed to the ground, punched, and kicked before his aides rushed him to a hospital where he was treated for injuries to his head, back, and legs.

While the Greek government was quick to blame Fascist groups for the incident, which occurred amid rising tensions over the massive influx of migrants and economic hardships endured by Greek citizens since the country’s bailout, it is not known whether the attackers were affiliated with any parties.

Artists, curators, and organizers of Documenta 14, which took place in both Athens and Kassel, are standing in solidarity with Boutaris. They praised his commitment to diversity and his openness to the Turkish, Jewish, and LGBTQ communities in Thessaloniki, which is Greece’s second largest city, as well as his collaboration with the quinquennial exhibition.

Under Boutaris’s leadership, the city has embraced and celebrated its history as the birthplace of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey; opened its first mosque; and worked with Turkish Airlines to open a flight path between Istanbul and Thessaloniki, which led to a surge in tourism. Boutaris is also spearheading the creation of a new Holocaust museum, which will commemorate the 50,000 Jews who died during the Nazi occupation.

Released on Monday, June 4, the open letter quotes Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The letter also urges Boutaris to remain committed to working for Thessaloniki. “This is the moment for all of us to be further united toward buiding the future we wish to live and grow in,” it concludes.

According to ekathimerini.com, the police have identified at least twelve suspects who were involved in the assault. On May 23, a Greek court handed two twenty-year-old men suspended prison sentences, ranging from fourteen to twenty-one months in duration, and gave another perpetrator, a thirty-six-year-old Greek from Georgia, a fourteen-month jail sentence for which he was allowed to skip out of for five euros a day.

June 6, 2018