Friday, November 17, 2006

Riots in Thessaloniki

Here is a video I took earlier (see here for others)

I was running away from the advancing riot police, the camera tripod fell out of my backpack and went clattering across the road. I stopped briefly and bent over to pick it up as as I got ready to resume my flight an enraged anarchist, stone in hand screamed in my face,

"τι'εν αυτο;" (what's this?)

and before I could answer he demanded to know,

"τι εισαι;" (what are you?)

As quick as a flash told him I was a blogger, and satisfied with my reply he ran off in the opposite direction to throw the piece of paving stone he was holding at the police who were rapidly advancing. I knew one day that blogging would have some practical use in the real world.

Today is the Polytechniou, on 17th November 1973 students at the Polytechnic in Athens started a student uprising that helped topple the military dictatorship that had ruled Greece since 1967. For educators and students of all ages it is a public holiday, marked by events which celebrate the brave stand that the students took against a particularly repressive regime.

I decided to take part in the march which went off in a peaceful manner and was the best attended I had seen for some time. Yet just like every other year I can remember there were riots and clashes between anarchists and the MAT (Greek riot squad). This year I thought that I would see what was happening for myself and hence angry encounter with the masked anarchist.

Skirting past the police blockade I managed to enter the university campus and see what was happening from the other side. The strangest moment was when the dean and university senate came marching out of the darkness chanting,

"We are dean and senate, we've come to tell the police to leave."

At great personal risk (there were stones and Molotov cocktails being thrown as he left the university grounds to talk to the police) he tried to reason with the young protesters, but without much effect. Like a disapproving teacher trying to bring order to a unruly class he argued, reasoned and implored the demonstrators to put down their stones and return back to the campus.

For the second time in three months I've been tear gassed (see here for September's riots). The trials and tribulations of being a citizen journalist, I guess.


Lingual Bee said...

Ignorant of Greece politics and social affairs, I didn't know the student uprising of 1973 in the country. But the picture you put out reminded me of the tanks rolling on Tianmen, Beijing, China in 1989.

It seems that yearning for liberty and freedom is universal.

dorapap said...

I used to take part in the protest when I was a student, but it was much more peaceful back then. Nowadays it is very dangerous, it's a pity, because this day represents freedom and not fear

teacher dude said...

Actually, the march was a very peaceful, good-natured affair which ended up at the university with songs and celebrations. It was only after that had finished that this happened.