quinta-feira, novembro 30, 2006

Athens report: 17/11 student march for the Anniversary of 1973 Greek Student Movement riots

Short background info: in Greece on the day of 17/11/1973 students occupied the polytechnical school in Athens, declaring the people's will to throw down the dictatorship that was in power since 1967. This revolt was suppressed by military forces who entered the polytechnical school, but this first major action,lead finally to the fall of dictatorship a year later.
Since then, it's established every year the same day to perform a demonstration in memory of this revolt and the people that struggled and died then.

This year the demonstration was big (at least for us). About 50.000 people marched at the center of Athens towards the American embassy. The atmosphere was already electrified due to the past day's reports that there would be too many police forces to "keep order" and to "guard the center of Athens" against anyone that would possibly make riots,and because of talkings and rumors of possible breaking the sanctuary of student schools in both Athens and Salonica in case of riots. Indeed the center of Athens was full of police forces of all kinds, stopping people to check them at the exits of the subway, on the streets, basicaly everywhere.Just because you have a school bug, you could be arrested. The police stopped people and "advised" them not to participate in the demonstration, provoking them by saying "look at you, you don't look like a student" and so on...

Finally the people gathered at about 16:00, but the march didn't start because 50 people were held at the central police station so we decided that if they were not freed, we wouldn't start marching. About an hour later, 49 people were released and the march started.
Everything went ok, until the block of "Antiauthoritorian Movemet" came to Hilton Hotel (a hotel so expensive that only the rich can afford it) which is just before the American embassy. There the cops stopped in front of the block, making it impossible to move on. Some people from the block went to negotiate about letting them pass. Meanwhile people from the back noticed policemen (dressed as normal people) attempting to get into the block and reacted rapidly. At this point from the officer's in charge radio we heard someone screaming "stop the now, not one shall pass" and cops started throwing tear gas and doing a circle around the block started beating everyone in their way.
Many people were thrown down, tear gas has formed a real cloud, people of all ages and gender started running every direction, while cops undercover grabbed everyone they could so other cops could beat them. This kind of police brutality was not seen since 1995. Finally 50 people arrested at this point and several others later as cops roamed the streets long after the march ended to catch everyone they thought suspicious. Many where beaten and went to hospital of which 2 with severe traumas at head, one critical with a fractured skull.
The most awful scene was where on demonstrator (the critical one) fall to the ground. There, people went over him to offer help, and cops threw tear grenades at them, one of which hit the injured man on the face!! All these were filmed by reporters and shown at the main channels a little after. After that the road opened again and the march continued, while a helicopter threw light at dark spots so cops could see if anyone was hiding there.
Right now as I write this, people are gathered outside court in solidarity to the 9 demonstrators that are held there to be judged, and a new march is planed in the next days.

That's all for now, I'm pretty tired.

Take care.

Photos can be found Athens IndyMediaCenter: Photos 1 and Photos 2.

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