Monday, November 19, 2012

Greek November 17th Protest

AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
Greece and Czech Republic both had holidays on November 17th.  In ČR, it is Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day.  On Saturday, Greeks commemorated a student upraising against the former military dictatorship.

In 1973, there were student uprisings, against the government, that began on November 14th.  There were several violent clashes with police on the 16th and in the early morning hours on the 17th, Greek army tanks stormed the National Technical University in Athens.  Twelve people died, more than 1,000 were injured and hundreds of people were arrested.  Greek law now forbids police and the army from entering any university campus. 

The student protests weren't enough to overthrow the government.  However, on November 25th, army hardliners overthrew dictator George Pasdopoulos.  A civilian government took over in July 1974.  Every year, tens of thousands of people march from the university to the front of the U.S. Embassy in Athens where they normally burn an American flag.  Many Greeks blame U.S. Cold War politics for backing the dictatorship from 1967 to 1974.  A similar march also takes place in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece which culminates with protests at the U.S. Consulate there.
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I received a warning from the U.S. Embassy to stay clear of the protest area.  Early in the afternoon we saw that the streets at Syntagma Square were closed off, hotels had covered up their windows and the riot police were taking position. 

We spoke with a police office who assured us that the march has nothing to do with the latest round of austerity measures.  He made it a point to let us know that nothing ever happens during this march because everyone knows that the there are over 6,000 police officers deployed.  Even still we made it a point to stay clear and find something else to entertain ourselves with.

I'm not sure what the police officer was talking about because back at the hotel I found lots of footage on YouTube from previous years and it didn't look quite as easy going as he tried to tell us.  This year, there were about 20,000 protestors in Athens and the police detained 70 people.

Here's some footage I found on YouTube of this year's protests.

 

While not directly related to the November 17th memorial, I'm sure that the current austerity measures still have an impact.  This video gives you a glimpse of just how bad the financial situation is in Greece.

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