Student protests and clashes in Greece

By Markos Vogiatzoglou, via: Dinamo

In Greece schools are occupied since one week, and today the rector of Athens University locked the university with riot police that attacked the students demostration.

It’s been sometime since we last heard from the Greek movement. But, thanks to the Greek government and its riot police, today became a day of large student demonstrations, clashes with the cops, injuries and rising tension. First, let’s see what happened. Early in the morning, the Athens Law School students arrived at their University in order to apply their Assembly decision, which included a symbolic occupation of their University until the 17th of November, commemoration day of the 1973 student revolt against the military dictatorship.

The problem was that the school was already occupied by the riot police. The Athenian Universities’ rectors had decided to apply a peculiar “lock out” of the students and employees, supposedly for “security reasons”. The government gave a helping hand by sending hundreds of cops, in riot gear, to apply the decision. The cops assaulted the students, seriously injuring a couple of them and dispersing the rest. The news circulated, public outrage was expressed for the police blockades and violence, hundreds of students demonstrated in the center of Athens during lunchtime, and another protest, involving thousands, is now going around the Universities, confronting a total police blockade of the city center.

A question I guess the Italian reader would put is why this mess, and why now? November is the traditional month of student mobilization in Greece. Yet, in the last years, seldom –if ever- did the protests go beyond the symbolic level, as the movement was too preoccupied with the country’s current problems to seriously devote itself in commemorations.This school year (anno scolastico) though, started with incredible problems for both schools and universities, due to underfunding and lack of teaching and administrative personnel. Hundreds of schools were occupied in the previous weeks and soon enough the universities joined the struggle.

The mobilization, if we want to be sincere, seemed quite weak until now. In a collapsed country, where everyone is waiting for the government to collapse as well and for the elections that will bring the left-wing SYRIZA to power, some hundreds of occupied schools do not make a real difference. It is also noteworthy that the student population of Greece, which was traditionally at the avant-garde of the movements and had led all major mobilizations since the 1990s and up to 2008, was largely absent from the large anti-austerity protests of 2010-2012.

But, as it seems, our surrealist government is doing its best to reverse the situation. As I am concluding these lines, the student protest arrived at the Polytechnic University of Athens in Exarchia (where it all started back in 1973), the students forced open the doors and entered with the purpose of making yet another Assembly. The police immediately attacked. Eye-witnesses report several injuries among protesters; hundreds are barricaded inside the Polytechnic. The burning smell of tear gas is spreading, once again, in Athens.

Greece: Students fight against education reform/Syntagma square re-occupied

On August 24th the Greek parliament voted in favour of the education reform bill submitted by the Minister of Education, Anna Diamantopoulou, which includes some of the most sweeping changes in the country’s educational system. The law introduces a UK-style administration of universities, with external individuals and non-academics taking part in the running of institutions and assessment-based, industry-oriented funding. Diamantopoulou – supported by some members of the far right party LA.O.S (Popular Orthodox Rally) – announced the complete abolishment of the historic university asylum (which prevented police from entering academic grounds in the name of the freedom of expression) and the election of university vice-chancellors primarily from their academic community.

Students responded with demonstrations and mass occupations. At least 222 departments across the country are now occupied. There seems to be a completely unprecedented agreement between students across almost the entire political spectrum for mobilisations against the voted law: this is rapidly becoming a stand-off between the Student community and the Parliament.

Below: a google map with departments under occupation (please note that it’s not quite up-to-date, as the number of departments increases rapidly, literally by the hour).

Syntagma square re-occupied

Yesterday, the indignants of Greece took back Syntagma square. Around 20.000 people protested against the IMF, police repression and lack of democracy. Many leftist groups participated, among with many anti-cuts and anti-racist organisations and a small group of Kurdish immigrants. Over 2000 joined the assembly. However in the upper Syntagma square the presence of flag wavers-nationalists, neo-fascists and anti-immigrant haters was strong [1]

Around 0:30, the riot police invaded the square and then a ruthless crackdown place. Many protesters tried to run away towards Stadiou and Filellinon streets. Later on, riot squads entered the «Everest» fast-food, beating up everybody on their way (not only protesters who were trying to escape but also people who were eating there). They threw tear gases and flash grenades and left one protester seriously injured.

Below is the statement of People’s assembly:

         On September 3rd, we are everywhere – we fill up Syntagma Square

The squares are us and we are everywhere. We are all. We started as indignant people, we have decided, and in a little while we will be revolting in masses until those who drove us here go away. Until we kick out the bankers and the market’s governments and system.

We all agree that we do not need any spokesmen in this movement, because by definition, but especially in the context of this political and economic system, they will be corrupted, cut off from the people, and will betray the people. We want to decide collectively for ourselves.  We demand to take our lives into our own hands.

The 3rd of September (the day when the first Greek constitution was drafted in 1843, and also when PASOK, the ruling party was created in 1974) is a date we can retake, by giving it back its original meaning, that of the people’s needs.

The 3rd of September is an important date for us. It is also the day that reminds us of the “cancellation” of the people’s aspirations for democracy, freedom and dignity. That reminds us of the lies told and the mockery made by our government.

We do not have any illusions: we understand that we cannot have direct democracy and people’s rule without overthrowing the government, the Troika, and the whole political and economic system.

We call all citizens to the big demonstration and people’s assembly in Syntagma Square and all the country’s squares on September 3, 2011 at 19:00

Bread – Education – Freedom
Equality – Justice – Liberty
The squares are we and we are everywhere

[1] The Blogger «The Irate Greek»describes the event of a racist attack:

         It was around 3pm on the corner of Ermou and Voulis Streets. A man selling corncobs in the street beat up an African who was selling counterfeit bags. The African was accusing the corn seller of stealing a bag from him and hiding it in his stand. The police let go the corn seller, trying isntead to disperse the people who had gathered. A man in civilian clothes was shouting that people should leave. When @mp_anana and @christina_la asked what authority he had to give orders to anyone, a policeman told them he held some position in the police and the municipality. The corn seller called activists from a far-right group and they started chatting with the police. @mp_anana and @christina_la later found out from kids from the neighbourhood that the corn seller is a member of Chrysi Avgi. A squad of riot police came and shouted again that people should leave, but people were staying to prevent them from beating up the African street sellers and were insisting that the police open the corn stand to see if the bag was inside. A lady told a policeman: “we are paying you to do your job.” He answered: “you are not paying me, mind your own business.” Shopkeepers came out and said that the Africans were ruining their business, that they should leave, etc. Ironically, at least one of them was not Greek herself. Meanwhile, the African man who had been beaten was bleeding in the street (he had to be taken to hospital, full details in Greek here).

(The names @mp_anana and @christina_la are the main display names of some tweeter users who were present at the event)

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London University students show Solidarity with Greek students – Φοιτητές του London University σε ένδειξη αλληλεγγύης προς τους Έλληνες φοιτητές.

EN: In light of recent events in Greece where a peaceful act of protest by Greek students was brutally suppressed by Greek riot police, there was a flash-mob outside the Greek embassy in London for 1PM Monday (6-12). Last Thursday, one thousand Greek students, protesting government austerity plans, marched to the British embassy in Athens in solidarity with British students. On this Monday, a small group of British students gathered outside the Greek embassy in a cheerful show of solidarity with them.

EL: Υπό το φως των πρόσφατων γεγονότων στην Ελλάδα, ως ένδειξη αλληλεγγύης προς τον αγωνιζόμενο Ελληνικό λαό, Βρετανοί φοιτητές οργάνωσαν μικρή διαμαρτυρία έξω από την Ελληνική πρεσβεία στο Λονδίνο στη 13:00 το απόγευμα της Δευτέρας 6 Δεκεμβρίου. Την περασμένη Πέμπτη, περίπου χίλιοι Έλληνες μαθητές, οι οποίοι διαμαρτυρόταν ενάντια στα σχέδια λιτότητας της κυβέρνησης, βάδισαν στην Βρετανικής πρεσβείας στην Αθήνα σε ένδειξη αλληλεγγύης προς τους Βρετανούς φοιτητές.

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