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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: Breaking the protest-ban

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Crowds defied the police ban of gatherings in Athens city centre yesterday in view of Eurogroup meeting and took to the streets, participating in the planned demonstrations against the austerity policies implemented by the government and the troika.

Tension prevailed when a block of protesters, mainly members of the left-wing ANTARSYA, attempted to break the police cordon in Kolokotronis Square. Chemicals and stun grenades were used by police in order to disperse them. Nonetheless, some protesters received brutal attacks (as shown in the video below). In total, four people have been arrested and are expected to face criminal prosecution.

In addition, more attacks against civilians took place (as the next video confirms) by units of the motorcycle police force (Dias) as they crossed over the sidewalks.

Despite reactions and condemnations, for a second consecutive day Greek police ordered more curfews and prohibitions on marches and concentrations in central Athens due to the meetings of finance ministers of the European Union at Zappeion Megaron. The ban held from 6:00AM until 15:00PM.

Greece: Two-day General Strike

First day

Large anti-austerity protests took place in Greece on 19th and 20th of October.It is estimated that over a million marched towards the Syntagma Square and expressed their anger against the measures of the government, the European Union and the bankers.The protests, organised by the two major trade unions GESEE and ADEDY started around 11:ooam. Mass participation was obvious even from the first morning hours.

The police plexiglass-iron wall that was used in previous demonstrations was once more placed at the junction of the flower shops [Louloudadika] in Vasilissis Sofias Avenue. More than 10,000 police officers were deployed on the streets of Athens in order to oppress the upcoming demonstration.

At around 11:00 about 100 people marched through the neighbourhoods of Kesariani, Vyronas and Pagrati. The demonstrators attacked a unit of DIAS motorcycle police who tried to follow the demo. In Thessaloniki. at 12:00 information claim that at least 10,000 demonstrators had gathered, headed from Kamara towards the Labour Centre. In Livadia about 2,000 people marched, closing down supermarket chain stores.

In Athens, the Stalinist-Communist PAME union demo was pouring into Syntagma; their size was huge. Meanwhile, the main demo extended from Syntagma to the Polytechnic School in Patission Street. Meanwhile, in the lower part of Syntagma Square there were some sporadic conflicts between alleged football hooligans with PAME demonstrators.

Around 14:00, the protest turn violent. In Syntagma, police used tear gas and shock grenades in front of the plexiglass-iron wall which blockaded Vassilisis Sofias Avenue next to the parliament; protester blocks were pushed away because of the chemicals. People chanted ‘Down with PASOK’s junta’ and ‘Cops–Pigs–Murderers’. The streets were flooded; in fact, there was march because the entire city centre was a vast rally. People walk even on the sidewalks towards the parliament. In Zalokosta and Akadimias street, riot police attacked the municipal workers and taxi drivers with tear gas. Strong clashes in Akadimias Street followed. Also, clashes were reported earlier near the Polytechnic School.

Later on, tear gas was shot straight into the crowd at Panepistimiou metro station. In Syntagma the police wall was torn down by the people; there occured clashes with Molotov cocktails and stones. Cops hurdled back stones on protesters. The first burning barricades were up high in Akadimias and Voukourestiou streets. Police squads blocked entrance to Syntagma from there.

Large-scale clashes in Akadimias Street and clashes in front of banks next to the University Refectory in Panepistimiou Street. People in Syntagma are moving, flooding the Unknown Soldier Monument while shock grenades sound all around Syntagma. At least four police squads rushed from Propylaea towards Syntagma Square. Many striker blocks have dispersed in Panepistimiou Street, and protesters call for people to join them in front of Propylaea so as to occupy the Refectory building.

In Kolokotroni Square in Stadiou Street, fascists along with army retirees were seen chasing hooded protesters while in the city of Thessaloniki police attacked strikers with tear gas in front of the General Secretariat for Macedonia and Thrace, and most people were headed to the Labour Centre.

After the demo in Thessaloniki, barricades were erected outside the Labour Centre. Massive repressive operation; at least three detentions one young woman injured and hospitalized. Police raided the building of the Labour Centre where demonstrators had fled.

In Athens a police officer dared to speak with a loudspeaker urging people to leave the area. A loud and clear ‘BOO’ was immediately heard from the side of the demonstrators. At the same time, Mitropoleos Street was blocked off by police, in a growing attempt to encircle the entire Syntagma Square and disperse the people from the area. Meanwhile, the water cannon was spotted next to police buses several kilometers away, in a northern region of Athens.

Successful demos took place in numerous other Greek cities such as Kalamata, Sparti, Nafplion, Preveza, Igoumenitsa, Orestiada, Kozani, Xanthi. In Larissa about 12,000 took to the streets. In Patras the march has ended (the anarchist block of Ergalioforos collectivity alone, had circa 600 people). In Volos about 10,000 and in Ioannina about 10,000 demonstrators. In Kavala more than 5,000 people took to the streets in one of the largest local demonstrations of the last decades; the Labour Center was occupied by demonstrators. On Kerkyra Island more than 3,000 people took to the streets, as on many other islands. On Lesvos Island about 1,000 people participated in the demo which ended around 14.00 GMT+2 and was followed by the occupation of the prefecture’s premises. There is an ongoing assembly at the occupied building. In total 28 pe0ple were detained!

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Second day

On October 20 MPs would take a final vote in favour or against this bill which aims at the further deterioration of the lives of millions. The Stalinists of PAME were already in Syntagma at 11:00am. Many reports claim that they lined up holding sticks, in order to secure the reactionary character of their rally, while they blocked other demonstrators from stepping onto the sidewalk of the Unknown Soldier Monument in front of the Parliament. At that moment there was no police presence (at least immediately visible). The Stalinists were about to play the role of the police, in order to suppress any possible actions of insurgency, and they achieved it.

In Athens, the Stalinists of PAME union lined up before the police squads, and in front of the plexiglass-iron wall next to the side of the Parliament, not allowing people to get anywhere close. Members of PAME, several with sticks and helmets, even asked for Press or Communist party id cards from protesters, who otherwise were not allowed through close to Parliament. The protesters expressed a growing discontent.

There are several reports that ordinary protesters, members of the civil disobedience movement ‘Den Plirono’ (I don’t pay) first confronted the PAME union’s ‘safeguard’ near the hotel Grande Bretagne. Then blocks of anti-authoritarians arrived, as well as the Anarchists’ Assembly for Social Self-determination.

Clashes erupted as protesters tried to reach the Parliament. An anarchist block attacked Stalinist lines. They confronted each other by the Great Britain Hotel in Syntagma. Police fired tear gas. The clashes were severe; flares were shot straight into the crowd. Generalized clashes between hundreds of anarchists and Stalinists in Syntagma took place; stones, bottles and flares were thrown. Protesters tried to break through PAME lines to reach the Parliament. The communists attempted a counter attack and beat up several – not only black bloc protesters. They even «arrested» some youths and gave them to the police. Their co-operation with the state was obvious while there were rumours that non-Greek police officers (perhaps members of the EUROGENDFOR) were operating this day in order to suppress the demo. When the regime used tear gas in Syntagma, the Stalinists offered a helping hand attacking demonstrators who tried to re-take the square.

In the city of Ioannina, the communists threatened many civilians and beat up protesters who despised their political views and attempted to cross the roads PAME had blocked, in order to reach government buildings. On Crete, members of KNE (the youth wing of the communist party) threatened protesters with sticks, outside the city hall.

There are also videos, where members of PAME were calling for the dispersion of the square (see below!)

 

Below: (2:00) Stalinist thugs throw a man from the first floor

PAME largely left Syntagma square around 17:00, protected by the police all the way; riot squads and motorcycle cops attacked people indiscriminately in Panepistimiou and Trikoupi streets

One dead

A 53-year-old man who participated in today’s Athens demo, has died.

Confirmed information so far, according to free radio 98 FM who contacted doctors:
– The deceased (alleged member of PAME) was hospitalized experiencing chest discomfort, atrial fibrillation and respiratory problems, and terminated due to a heart attack. It is confirmed that the 53-year-old carried no head injuries (as originally reported in corporate media, twitter, etc.). He probably died from inhaling an excessive amount of tear gas shot by the Greek police. Another likely reason would be tension during the strike, or even dehydration.

It should be mentioned also that there was no allegation between the 53-year-old man with the clashes erupted a few hours before, as initially members of the communist party was trying to present.

In response to the unexpected crackdown of PAME, late at night in the city of Thessaloniki, anarchists set fire to the Communist Party Offices while destructions against offices of the ruling party PASOK and the Communist Party have been reported in other cities as well.

PMs of far-right LAOS, also, expressed their approval for the tactics of the Communist Party, while it was obvious that the role of the police had been replaced by the Stalinists who by any means show that all they want is to hijack a genuine movement, seize power and impose their own military dictatorship by overthrowing the authoritarian and unpopular government of PASOK!


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