17 May, 2009 – guardian.co.uk
Charlie Skelton is scared, jumpy and hacked off at the police state built around Bilderberg. So hacked off, in fact, he has asked the police to stop following him. Bad move.
• Read all of Charlie Skelton’s Bilderberg files
‘This man is following me. It’s true. I’m not imagining things.’
Photograph: Charlie Skelton
I need to go back a day and tell you exactly how I came to be in an Athens metro station at 8am, grappling with two strange men, struggling and yelling: ‘Help me somebody! Security! Please! Someone get security! Get the police!’ My voice still hurts. My brain is ready to explode.
But that is today. Yesterday divides in half: the half where I flee the Bilderberg resort, too scared and strung out to remain, and the half when I have to bundle myself in a random cab and drive to the British Embassy for my own safety.
I am being hounded. And all because I dared report on Bilderberg. Because I dared point my finger at them, there, in the darkness of a seaside peninsula. Ecce Bilderberg!
I am not lying. I am not exaggerating. I am not imagining. I am not hysterical. If anything, I became incredibly calm when I finally stopped being the criminal, stopped being the hare, and grabbed one of the men who’s been following me. I was turning the madness back in on itself, grabbing their wrists and plunging all of us further down the rabbit hole.
So yes, to be clear, I’ve just been tussling with two men in the bleak marble atrium of an Athens Metro station. But that was this morning. I haven’t even had breakfast yet. I need to tell you about yesterday.
I wrote the words below a thousand years or so before all that’s happened to me in central Athens. See me now, back in Vouliagmeni, sitting in a cafe by the sea, being watched (of course) while I sip my orange juice. It is another beautiful day on the Greek Riviera …
* * *
That’s it, I’m done, I’m gone.
Believe me when I say, I feel physically intimidated; I feel afraid. I’ve had my own little seaside dip into a police state and the water’s coming over my head.
If you’ve ever been bullied you’ll know exactly what I’m feeling: the tightness in the chest, looking both ways down corridors, hating the fear, hating your mind for asking ‘am I safe here? Am I safe?’ I’ve been bullied out of Vougliameni, bullied away by Bilderberg for daring to be near.
I am leaving the toxic orbit of Bilderberg so I can breathe freely. So I can walk down a sidestreet without being followed by plainclothes policemen. I’m tired of men in the lobby, men on the stairs, the same men in different doorways, on different corners wherever I go. Cars pulling away from the kerb when I approach. The same cars, the same feelings. I’m tired of complaining at the station. I’ve complained three times now, and the final time turned nasty. They denied outright I was being followed. ‘This is an idea in your mind!’ I showed them a photo I took today, when I took my tail on a looping stroll through the hills, waited round a corner, and snapped him unawares. They’re not very good at this, but that just makes it worse. If they were a bit more subtle I could pretend they weren’t there.
I have been made to feel weak, but buried in my weakness is a fury. How dare they make me feel like this. How dare they! They have turned this corner of the Greek Riviera into east Berlin (a helicopter circles above me as I type these words, I swear) and I haven’t the backbone to brazen it out. Checkpoint Charlie here I come.
Of all the things I am furious about, the one that rankles the most is the fact that I’ve become jumpy. It’s crazy that I’m keeping my room door open as I pack, and the balcony door. Two exits. It’s crazy that I’ve started checking the bathroom and the wardrobe when I enter. That I’m taking photographs of my laptop when I leave the room, and finding it moved. I want to be in the open, in the sunlight, in front of people. I crave the fresh air of Athens city centre, and that’s saying something.
Nor am I imagining things – this is not an ‘idea in my mind’. And how extraordinary that I have to write that. It is shocking and upsetting that I have to justify my sanity, defend my perceptions and stand in a police station being told I am imagining things. I showed them the photo of the man I caught round the corner. An officer asks, absurdly: ‘How from this photograph do you say he is following you? I just see a man.’ I take a deep breath. ‘Well, yes, he isn’t holding a sign which says ‘I am following Charlie Skelton’ so I suppose you have to take my word for it.’
In comes the chief. Bossios Hoggios. ‘What the problem?’ I tell him that I am being followed by the police, and that I would like it to stop, or be told the reason. ‘Why you here?’ he barks. I tell him I am here for the Bilderberg conference at the Astir Palace. ‘Well, that is the reason! That is why! We are finished!’ And he washes his hands of me, dismissing me with a gesture, striding back to his office. ‘Idiot,’ I mutter, unheard.
Back to the photograph.
‘How you know he is a policeman?’
‘I know that he is, I’ve seen him talking to your colleagues at the checkpoint.’
‘You are not allowed to take photos of policemen.’
‘So I am being followed by policemen?’
He gestures out of the window.
‘Where is he now, this man you say following you? Show me him.’
I’m standing in a police station. I don’t know what to say. They tell me to ring the police if I see them again. To ring the police if I see the police following me.
I shouldn’t have called the officer an idiot. I shouldn’t have raised my voice and derided the craziness of the situation. I’m not in a friendly room any more, so I decide to leave. I clap my hands together with as much mockery as my anger allows, and cry: ‘We are finished!’ I wash my hands of the Greek police.
But I’m not done with Bilderberg.
I finish my orange juice, pick up my rucksack, and walk down the street to hail a cab. Which is when I’m detained for the third time. I’m a good half mile from Bilderberg, trying to leave the resort, sick of it all, but Checkpoint Charlie has just slammed in my face.
‘You take photographs!’
I’d done no such thing. I was waiting for a cab.
‘Show me your camera! Why you here?!’
They circle round. Local cops, a riot officer, two private ‘security’ men. I looked at their lanyards: Avion Security. One of the Avion goons prods me with his walkie-talkie. ‘Why you here?’ I tell him, wearily, that I’m a journalist. He rubs his chin and says the words that even in a 30-degree sun turn my blood to ice.
‘Show me your papers.'”