On the second anniversary of the brutal murder of a Greek American LGBT activist in Athens, Anna Vissi released a tribute song called “Tromagmeno Mou,” or “My Scared One.”
The song pays tribute to Zak Kostopoulos— also known by his stage name Zackie Oh— a well-known and outspoken LGBT activist and drag performer in Athens who was born in the United States and moved to Greece with his family when he was eight years old.
In a nod to his dual heritage, the song also carries a line in English.
Kostopoulos was brutally murdered in central Athens on September 21, 2018 after a shopkeeper claimed to have mistaken him for a robber.
After a two-year delay and criticism of the police and the court system for dragging their feet and mishandling the investigation, six people face manslaughter charges, including the shopkeeper, a friend who also participated in the lynching and four police officers who have been accused of using excessive force which led to his death.
Kostopoulos’ family has asked for the prosecutor to raise all charges to murder. They also asked Forensic Architecture, a UK-based research agency, to investigate the killing. Their results, published on a website, were damning to the Greek police and the “official” account of Zak’s killing.
“If you saw a person in the situation that he was, you can easily conclude that if you continue to kick him in this way he will die,” said the family’s lawyer, Anny Paparousou.
Camera recordings of the attack on Kostopoulos show him trying to get out of a locked jewelry store through a broken window while two men repeatedly kick him violently— continuing to do so after he crawls out. In later footage, policemen are seen handcuffing Kostopoulos and continuing to kick him. Kostopoulos died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
While the circumstances leading to the incident remain unknown, a forensic report shows footage of Zak being bullied by an unknown individual at a corner bakery near the jewelry store where the murder took place.
Next available security footage shows Zak in a locked jewelry store a few doors down from the bakery, frantically trying to get out. He ultimately emerges from a window under the shop’s facade display case where the shopkeeper and others began violently kicking him.
The reason he ended up in the locked jewelry store remains unknown.
The owner of the jewelry shop wasn’t inside at the time and returned to find Zak trying to crawl out of the window when he began kicking him in the head violently.
The mainstream Greek media immediately pushed an unsubstantiated narrative that he was a drug addict and he entered the store to rob it, even claiming that he brandished a knife and was threatening the shop keeper.
Without any proof, news anchors and newspaper writers referred to Zak as a “junkie” and “thief” who was caught during an attempted hold up and beaten by the “heroic” store owner who was protecting his property.
All of these claims were quickly disproven by a combination of security camera footage and the lack of any DNA or fingerprint evidence that would have been present in a robbery.
Police didn’t find a single fingerprint belonging to Zak on any jewelry counters or on the cash register and post-mortem toxicology reports revealed zero traces of drugs in his system.
Furthermore, a knife that was reportedly found on the scene didn’t have any of Zak’s fingerprints on it but had traces of his blood.
Many believe the knife was planted at the crime scene and tainted with his blood, perhaps by individuals who pushed the robbery and self-defense narrative.
The crime scene was never secured by police— another critical factor in the investigation. There is video evidence of the shop keeper sweeping and cleaning the shop and the street outside moments after police left the scene.
Several people claimed Zak was being chased by the unknown man who was caught on camera appearing to bully him in front of the bakery and Zak frantically barged into the nearby jewelry shop out of fear, possibly setting off an auto-lock of the door.
Two separate coroners were asked to investigate the circumstances that led to Zak’s death. Each ruled, independently, that he suffered a fatal heart attack as a result of the brutal beating.
The mainstream media was heavily criticized for pushing a false narrative, while the police were accused of sloppy work and mishandling the investigation.
The Press Project, an independent team of journalists in Greece not affiliated with any of the mainstream media, accused the police of an attempted cover-up in a series of investigative articles and outlined the breakdown of justice and fairness in a widely-circulated video report by Konstantinos Poulis, one year after the murder.
Zak’s brutal murder have inspired a global movement seeking to bring attention to violence and brutality by police against LGBT people.
There have been annual memorial marches and vigils throughout Greece, art exhibitions, academic papers, two plays, a film, a book published by the Onassis Foundation and dozens of fundraisers in Kostopoulos’ honor and in support of his family’s legal expenses in their efforts to bring Zak’s murderers to justice.
The scene of the murder has become a place of remembrance with people visiting it regularly to pay tribute to the 33-year-old activist, while a yellow outline of where Zak was beaten has been painted into the pavement.
With Anna Vissi’s involvement— two years to the day of Zak’s murder and performed by Greece’s most popular female singer, the issue is once again brought out in the mainstream space— not by a biased media seeking to demonize gay people or a tainted police force trying to push a false narrative— but in a beautiful, humane tribute to a lost soul, telling Zak in the song:
“May you fly far away from the evil, the souls here have darkened. Go farther away, it’s hell here and you deserve paradise. Your smile won’t be forgotten, Zak, neither will that dark, final moment.”
The video features Betty Vakalidou, a prominent trans/LGBT activist considered by many to mb “the mother” of the LGBT movement in Greece, visiting the site of Zak’s murder outside the jewelry shop.
Tromagmeno Mou (My Scared One) featuring Anna Vissi
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