At first, the crowd seemed too somber to join in the singalong of Madonna's “Like a Prayer” — a song that Zak Kostopoulos loved. But slowly, one by one, people gathered at the Athens School of Fine Arts began to sing and clap.
When they finished the song, mourners called out in unison, “Zackie lives, smash the Nazis.” In Greek, the phrase rhymes, and over the past year, it’s been chanted at protests, marches and drag shows all over the country.
The memorial last Friday was one of several tributes over the weekend to the prominent gay activist who was brutally beaten to death on Sept. 21, 2018. The violence was captured on camera and broadcast widely, and catapulted into the national conversation. In the past year, a larger movement has formed calling for justice for Kostopoulos, who was 33.
Kostopoulos was an advocate for people like himself — LGBTQ people, drug users and those with HIV, and he often wrote about the rights of sex workers and refugees. He made waves in 2013 when he wore a T-shirt to Athens' Pride that said, “HIV Positive.” But he was perhaps most famous as the drag queen, Zackie Oh, often sporting heavy black eyeliner and a rainbow-colored bob. As Zackie Oh, he once impersonated Freddie Mercury, wearing a bathrobe and carrying around a tricolor duster (and using it on audience members). In 2017, Zackie Oh closed out Athens’ Pride with an ebullient performance of "Disco Inferno."
Kostopoulos' death and the aftermath has been a struggle in Greece, where, in recent years, it had seemed LGBTQ rights were improving.
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