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Still Fierce Against The Odds: An End Of The Year Anarchist Update From Greece

The last time we wrote about the situation here in Athens, we were sweating beside our laundry drying that was covered with soot from raging wild fires. It is hard to know where to invest all our energy, as so much has happened, and times remain precarious here as they do everywhere.

Originally published by Its Going Down.

Since that last update the state has attacked striking fire fighters demonstrating for more support outside the ministry of the climate crisis in Athens, leading to an individual losing a finger as police threw flash grenades indiscriminately and (ironically) sprayed the firefighters with a water cannon. Apparently the firefighters’ “hero status” no longer mattered since the fires had been extinguished and the state has unconditional support only for its police and military dogs that comfort its base and secure the status quo.

Covid deaths have been staggering as well, proportionately some of the highest in the world, but police and military budget expansion continues at the expense of the country’s medical infrastructure. Judicial opportunism for criminal prosecution has also been expanded: new laws for punishment due to possession of Molotov cocktails conveniently came into effect shortly before the 17th of November. As cited in our prior report, a group of 14 anarchists are also being made an example of as the state demands their DNA based on absurd grounds and a fishing expedition. This modernization of the state apparatus of repression is something we’ve anticipated throughout our years of reporting.

Fleeing immigrants and refugees are attempting new routes and drowning en masse; it is a tragic daily occurrence the state has calculated through its border measures in the Aegean sea. Soap-opera-level corruption in the state apparatus continues at comedic levels while average income remains stagnant relative to unprecedented inflation.

However what is most remarkable is how, as a movement, we are coming out of the previous lockdown swinging!

We quote ourselves once again in this introduction; “any lockdown that divests from hospitals in order to expand the police and military is not an attempt to manage a pandemic, but an experiment in authoritarianism.” Despite the endless absurdity, inconsistencies, and contradictions of the state’s management of covid here in Greece and the lockdown last year being used strategically against our movements, one thing that is certain is that despite the silence we all felt in the surreal (and in many cases traumatic) lockdown, the movement against the state and capitalism in Greece remains intact.

The Murder Of Nikos Sabanis

On October 23rd, Greek police chased and murdered a 20-year-old man named Nikos Sabanis in Athens. Nikos and two other Roma youth allegedly stole a car and took it for a joy ride, refusing to stop at a police checkpoint. Several officers decided to engage in a high-speed pursuit, specifically announcing over the radio that their targets were Roma youth.

The Roma are a historically marginalized community across Europe. In Greece they live in slums outside Athens and other similar encampments. They are constantly under police harassment, and systematically marginalized in Greek society.

Despite officers being ordered to discontinue pursuing the car due to potential danger to traffic, the racist grandiose cops chased the three youth down, eventually shooting into the car 38 times and killing Nikos. Video footage emerged of the shooting as well as all the cops whom claim to have been rammed and injured admitting no injuries at all.

The murder sparked demonstrations by anarchists across Greece as well as an intense mobilization by Roma communities across the country. Roma youth attacked cops with stones and created huge burning barricades on major highways to demonstrate their rage. The cops likely will face no repercussions and were applauded for the murder by fascists at their initial prosecutorial hearing over the use of deadly force:

What is important here is that while in the USA police kill on average more than 3 people per day, it is not as common in Greece. However in New Democracy’s new “law and order” Greece, the state and its police are looking to emulate the states more and more. The numbers of bullets shot and the likely full dismissal of charges against the 7 officers involved are setting an intense precedent for the ability of police to freely commit murder in Greece at the rate they do in countries such as USA and Brazil without concern for punishment. While we don’t believe justice is ever possible in any state court, the absence of “qualified immunity” for officers in Greece has previously been somewhat of a deterrent for police to kill as they wish.

Unfortunately, due to Nikos being Roma, the case only appeared in headlines for a short time in the racist media outlets of the country, and when it came to responding to the murder in the streets the response was almost exclusively anarchist groups and Roma communities.

17th Of November And 6th Of December As They Concern Anarchists

While it was still certainly a punishable crime, the prosecution of Molotov cocktails used by anarchists was not nearly as extreme as in such places as the United States, where you see unbelievable instances of imprisonment due to the use of them, such as the case of Eric King. In the lead up to the 17th of November, the new law set a minimum sentence of 3 years for any individual caught possessing a molotov cocktail; depending on circumstances the penalty can reach up to 10 years.

Regardless, the 17th of November and 6th of December took place after being smothered by covid lockdowns the year before.

The 17th of November commemorates the day in 1973 when the military junta invaded the grounds of the Polytechnio (the architectural school) in Exarchia, killing at least 23 people who were occupying the grounds or otherwise resisting the dictatorship. The day is the basis of the previous asylum laws that applied to universities in Greece. Similar to Chile, where asylum laws came into place due to the mass torture and murder of students by Pinochet, Greece (up until New Democracy came to power in 2019) had been a place where police were unable to enter campuses due to the inherent conflict and violence they would incite.

Demonstrations took place across the country for the 17th. Police forces were scattered across universities everywhere anticipating occupations. Despite this, in the days building up to the 17th, the GINI building of the original Polytechnic in Exarchia, which for years had been a meeting ground for anarchist organizing and assembly, was re-occupied. The combination of covid lockdown and the lifting of asylum had allowed the university and the state to seize this space from the movement, but the building was re-occupied and used as a revolutionary event space and anarchist occupation in the lead-up to the 17th:

On the day of the 17th huge demonstrations took place, with Athens’ demonstration, the largest, drawing many thousands of people. However the police made it clear who concerned them: they surrounded the anarchist bloc of the march with hundreds upon hundreds of riot police, marching on both sides of the gigantic bloc in a kettling strategy.

Clashes in the night took place as well across Greece. Amazingly, small groups attempted to fight police near to the historic Polytechnic university in Exarchia despite the state deploying over six thousand police to the center of the city. Ten arrests at least were made in Athens.

The night brought strong clashes in Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki. As the main march in Thessaloniki finished, a strong force of molotov cocktails, stones, and general resistance was maintained in the streets by those commemorating this historical day. Small clashes also took place in smaller cities in the country such as Patras.

The 6th of December commemorates the day that 15-year-old anarchist Alexandros Grigoropoulos was murdered by police in the neighborhood of Exarchia. The event sparked a historical insurrection.

The 6th of December this year was waking up from the slumber of the state’s use of the virus last year to smother any assembly of any kind. A gigantic march took place in Athens, with similar marches taking place across the country.

Amazingly, despite a huge police operation the main march in Athens was able to enter Exarchia and proceed in building barricades and taking on police with stones and anything that could be thrown at the bastards. Police eventually overwhelmed the neighborhood, breaking into apartment buildings and snatching individuals at random.

Thessaloniki also had strong resistance against police forces. Volos, Patras, and various towns and cities across the country held marches with small clashes taking place as well.

In the build-up to the 6th of December a courageous action took place against the Acropolis Police station in Athens: on November 27th, the police station was attacked with a flurry of molotov cocktails; the communique also claims another attack against an accused rapist and human trafficker cop known as Dimitris Bougioukos (he’s mentioned in our prior reports). This clandestine action was not only a courageous statement to inspire strength for the 6th of December, it was against a police station that is in the tourist capital of the city of Athens, and just weeks after the new law regarding molotov cocktails.

What is important to understand is that the police force in Athens is dramatically bigger and more equipped than in Thessaloniki and/or Patras, where strong clashes have also taken place on these days. As a result of this it should be understandable why stronger clashes were able to take place in these cities, and equally important to take a moment to show respect and appreciation for those who still continued to try and escalate resistance in Athens despite facing a Goliath of a police operation. The will, courage, and passion demonstrated across the country on these days shows the resilience of our movements. These days both very much help to form the historical foundations of the contemporary anarchist movement in Greece. Despite the state’s authoritarian opportunism around the pandemic and the “law and order” policies of New Democracy, these dates were still recognized in properly stoic and defiant fashion.

Immigrants And Refugees

With the consequences of climate change, the pandemic, and war the refugee crisis tragically continues. World headlines were directed at the nasty proxy war between Poland and Belarus that used refugees as pawns on the border of Belarus and the EU, but refugees continue their desperate journeys whether by land or sea. We have repeatedly reported on the pogroms and procedures of border control and immigrant detention in Greece, both before and since New Democracy has come into power. Whether shooting at or pushing back boats of refugees crossing from Turkey, or setting up floating border walls, these efforts have done nothing but push refugees into attempting new, even more dangerous routes to cross the Aegean sea from Turkey.

Over 1600 people have drowned this year alone attempting to reach Europe from abroad, with 30 people drowning and many more missing just this week of Christmas 2021. Europe remains a racist fortress rejecting those fleeing the crisis the continent’s historical colonialism is responsible for, the colonialism at the roots of its supposed “superiority”.

In Conclusion

There is so much we want to touch on but do not want to overwhelm the reader. Omicron (Known simply as ‘O’ in Greece) is just arriving here as we write this, but we can’t imagine how much worse the pandemic could get in this country.

Demonstrations against femicide and patriarchy continue as well. The pandemic exacerbated domestic violence and femicide, highlighting the longstanding pandemic of gendered violence in this country, entwined with the heinous traditions of the Orthodox church.

What is most important though is that we recognize that despite how hard this last year has been, between the overwhelming lockdown, the apocalyptic wild fires, and a state that continues to double down on its efforts to repress the anarchist movement– despite all this, we are still in the streets, we are still very much here. Squats face imminent eviction, but new squats are being opened. Cases of state repression we previously reported on continue, but solidarity is showing a fierce resilience here.

Another report was made recently by the Prosfygika squat we suggest reading as well:

We hope all to go to the prisons this New Years Eve and for 2022 to be another year of resilience despite the intense hardships we all face under capitalism. Things feel bleak, and they honestly are, but after last year’s lockdown, seeing how the movement will never cease to exist here brings hope before the endless hopelessness that the state and capital wants us all to feel. Revolutionary solidarity to all struggling against the state and capital!

— Anonymous Anarchist Voices
Athens, December 27th, 2021

This update is part of a long-term effort to foster international awareness of and solidarity with the anarchist movement in Greece. The authors have provided consistent updates here over the past few years. While we are not formally affiliated with them, we recommend the Bad News Report and Radio Fragmata Greece for updates on movements in Greece and abroad. We also recommend Athens IndyMedia. The twitter @exiledarizona and Enough 14 also consistently post in English about events in Greece.

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