Thousands commemorate 1973 Greek student uprising

Demonstrators gathered in downtown Athens on Thursday and marched towards Syntagma Square and from there to the US Embassy in the capital.

University student unions, anarchist groups, and left-wing groups as well as PASP, the youth union affiliated with the opposition party PASOK-KINAL, took part in the rally, which was largely peaceful.

“The Polytechnic spirit is still alive even 50 years after the first uprising, and still people take to the streets against imperialism, against government measures and the Americans, and this shows that the Polytechnic is still here and will continue to be,” demonstrator Maria Daniil told Anadolu Agency.

Asked whether the unfolding government surveillance scandal undermines democracy in the country, Daniil, a pensioner and member of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Greece, said: “The wiretapping scandal was like an abscess which grew for decades and now it broke and all the dirt came out.”

She added: “During the uprising, people fought for democracy, and what is happening with these scandals has nothing to do with democracy. On the contrary, it has to do with repression, with the restriction of the freedom and the rights of people.”

Maria Papastavrou, a student at the University of Athens, echoed Daniil on the effect of the scandal on Greek democracy.

“There is no such thing as democracy,” she told Anadolu Agency.

“How come we talk about democracy where someone is always watching us?” she asked.

‘Fighting for democracy’

Patroklos Psaltis, another demonstrator, claimed that turbulent times lie ahead.

The apparently smooth democratic period Greece had since the early 1980s has ended, and now it has entered a period of crisis, conflict, and social struggles, he said.

"We believe that to some extent the current democracy is fake in many ways, we’re fighting for a democracy that will really be in the hands of the people, not only its composition in the parliament," he said.

Minor incidents took place at Klafthmonos Square shortly after the rally started when a group of persons unknown threw firebombs at police, who responded with flashbangs.

The rally’s main slogan was “Bread – Education – Liberty,” a rallying cry that was also used in the 1973 uprising.

Many Greeks who blame the US for supporting the military junta that ruled the country in 1967-1974 also chanted anti-US and anti-NATO slogans.

Several leftist political leaders took part in the rally, including main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary-General Dimitris Koutsoubas, and MeRA25 Secretary-General Yanis Varoufakis.

More than 5,000 police were deployed in the Greek capital, while major streets were blocked by police forces.

Major changes also occurred on several central metro and train stations along the march on Thursday afternoon while the US Embassy was heavily barricaded on all sides.

Nov. 17 marks the Athens Polytechnic Uprising in 1973 when students held a massive demonstration against the ruling Greek military junta.

The uprising began on Nov. 14, 1973, and escalated to an open revolt against the military junta, which was ruling the country since 1967.

It ended in bloodshed in the early morning of Nov. 17, after a series of events starting with a tank crashing through the gates of the Polytechnic campus.

At least 24 civilians were killed during the uprising.

*Contributed by Ahmet Gencturk in Ankara.

Source: Anadolu Agency