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Another November 17

18 November 2009 / 09:11:03  GRReporter
2615 reads

Kremena Koutsoukou

If you ask a Greek which is one of the most important dates in the country, most likely you will get an answer – November 17. The student riots against the military junta and the tragic end do not interest only Greeks but people from different nationalities and fill them with feelings of heroism, bravery, aspiration for freedom and anger.

For 36 years November 17 has never been just another day in Greece. Independently of what happens on this date, the main topic is one and it is definitely connected with honoring the memory of the ones who died in the riots. The yard of the Polytechnic University is turned into a garden filled with red carnations. Since Sunday visitors of the city and Athenians come here to lay flowers.

Among those people are governors and politicians. All bow their heads in front of the heroism of those young people, who lost their lives in an honorable way. Here is also President Karolos Papoulyas. He is laying a wreath. “The Polytechnic University is a point of reference to all of us, a reason for all our respect and determination that after dark comes light”.

PM Giorgios Papandreou approaches the garden walking and says that fight for democracy and freedom is always current and of importance. He adds that the citizen needs to be in the center of politics, to be sure and to have hope, perspective and he concludes: “This is what we also fight today”.

The parliament members kept one minute silence and following a special session was summoned, on which the chairman of the parliament, the minister of education and political parties representatives give a speech dedicated to the 36 year anniversary. Otherwise the celebration mood in the center of the city is mixed – tension around the annual rally, which starts from the Polytechnic University and finishes in front of the American embassy building. Traffic is heavy and schools have closed earlier. Two key subway stations are also closed – Evangelismos and Megaro Mouzikis.

The road from the Polytechnic University to the US embassy is filled with policemen. They are so many that it seems they have blended with the people. Their job is to be “discreet”. This was agreed upon by the dean of the Polytechnic University Konstantinos Moundzouris and minister of public defense Mihalis Hrisohoidis. In the early afternoon many people had gathered around the Polytechnic University. Many young people – high school and university students.

At 03:00PM the rally starts. It goes fairly calm. Mainly exclamations with anti-imperialistic content are heard but also against NATO and the EU. The first ones to reach the final destination are the student party organizations, which include in their repertoire exclamations against the gathered police.

Except for all the rally participants, there are also many regular people on the sidewalks. They stop, take a picture and comment. They do not seem disturbed by the demonstrators, by how close they are getting to the US embassy, by how excited they get or by the strong police presence. Exclamations become louder, explosions from small bombs are heard, from time to time youngsters throw stones at policemen and police busses, which surround the US embassy building. It seems as if the policemen do not pay attention to all that “play” and they just move with the crowd.

Tension increases on the crossroad between Alexandras and Kifisias Boulevards. Molotov explosions are heard and there is a lot of smoke. People start running in different directions. There is a lot of commotion. There are trash cans set on fire and many broken car windows. In a bit the police managed to spread the rioters and all continue down on Alexandras towards the Greek police building. The “balance-sheet” is fairly small scale: more than 292 people are arrested and 3 policemen are injured.

One more rally is towards its end. One more November 17 has passed with not that much riots. Other years it has been worse and tension was bigger, say locals while walking by. 

Tags: November 17 in Greece Riots in Greece Polytechnic University
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