Athens, 17.11: Largest Polytechnic Uprising Demonstration in Years

The 17th of November has a very special significance in Greek social movements, as it marks the date when, in 1973, the military junta massacred students during an anti-dictatorship uprising. For this reason, every year there is a demonstration, which is very often used by anarchists to eloquently make the point that the struggle is not over, and this often leads to clashes with the police and every few years to new Polytechnic occupations. A poster for this years demonstration makes it very clear, reading „Demonstration against the Junta“…

For me, the date has an even greater personal significance, as it marks my first „contact“ with modern anarchism. November 17th, 1995. Living in Greece, pre-internet times, barely a teenager, speaking little Greek. I had discovered anarchism, but not being able to find any present day anarchists, had reached the conclusion that it must be a dead movement, with no present day adherents. Until that 17th of November, when suddenly whatever I was watching on television was interrupted to show live footage of masked people clashing with police in front of the University. One couldnt make it all out, but they were chanting something about authority, things about the state, the word „anarcheia“ could often be heard. A Greek flag was burned…“revelation“ is probably the most appropriate term. The rest, as they say, is history…

This years demonstration, coming fresh on the clashes of the day before during an IMF visit to Athens, was attended by over 50,000 people. Occupied London reports:
It will take us a little while to comprehend today’s events in Athens – and surely, this is not the best moment to do so – writing these lines after a full twelve hours in the streets. But still, some first thoughts are of order. What happened today was important. First, today’s demonstration had a very peculiar feel to it. The largest Polytechnic uprising commemorative demonstration in more than a decade (30,000 according to the police, around double in real numbers). A very tense feeling in the air. Even before the demo set off, clashes with the youth branch of PASOK – the social-democrat party in power – who had the nerve to try join the demonstration. The police on the sides of the march, with their hands on the trigger of the tear-gas guns the entire time. People waiting for something to happen on both ends: our end, and on that of the police.

And something did happen. The most intense and populous demonstration Athens has seen since May 5th. The police charging ahead whenever they could, whenever they would isolate people off the main block of the demonstration. People fighting back, during the demo and then, late in the night, in Exarcheia. But that peculiar feeling hasn’t faded: we are still waiting something will happen… Tonight was the last day of a long summer. Tomorrow is the first day of a strange winter – hopefully, a beautiful winter.“

PS During the clashes earlier in the week, Greek cops can be seen, as in the image below, throwing chairs at anarchists outside the Polytechnic! A funny image, but really not all that rare in Athens, although usually it is rocks they throw, not chairs!

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