Summer time in Greece

'murderers' painted onto an Athens' bus during a protest after the death of a 19yr boy.

The traditional August summer holidays were not a time of peace and relaxation this year in Greece.

Summer time is normally a quiet time politically in Greece. During August many people leave the sweltering cities and so not all that much happens. During this time of crisis however that wasn't the case this year. Below is a brief round-up of some of the significant events of the summer. The last few weeks saw another tragic death, an uprising in the detention camps, raids on squats and the prime minister can now by pass parliament.

In early August the country was shocked when a 19 year old boy died because he couldn't afford a €1.20 bus ticket. Thanassis Kanaoutis died as he fell from a bus in Athens after a confrontation with a ticket inspector. Ticket inspections have increased on public transport recently and inspectors are encouraged to be tough by the offering of commission on every fine they issue. Being unemployed(youth unemployment rate is now 64%) Thanassis couldn't afford a ticket and so was challenged by an inspector and the driver, a scuffle started and as Thanassis jumped, or was pushed, from the bus he suffered a fatal head injury.

The tragic incident was seen by many as an example of just how hard the government is willing to push to extract the money demanded by the troika(Greece's international creditors). In the days following there were protests by hundreds of people in Athens during which buses were smashed and the riot police called in.

A few days before this incident there was an uprising in the Amygdaleza camp for detained immigrants on the edge of Athens. Detention camps for immigrants have been set up across Greece in the last years and are frequently criticised for their terrible conditions. Brutality and neglect are often reported including the case of Mohammad Hassan who died after a serious medical situation was ignored.

The exact cause of the uprising on the 10th August is disputed with the police saying the attack was unprovoked but the news of an extension to the period of detention from 12 to 18 months may be one reason. Another more direct cause may have been that the electricity had been cut off leaving people stuck inside hot containers at the height of summer. During the uprising inmates caused considerable damage to the camp and ten people managed to escape(two of whom were later caught) . The police responded harshly with baton charges and tear gas to bring the camp back under control arresting and injuring dozens in the process.

Throughout July and August there were a number of police raids on squats and autonomous spaces across Greece. On 5th August three spaces were raided and evicted in the western city of Patras. This was followed by a raid on the Polytechnic university in central Athens. In the north the Antiviosi squat was evicted in Ioannina and another raided in Thessaloniki a few days later. In response to the raids a large group of people protested at the residence of the governor of Epirus and municipal buildings were briefly occupied in a number of cities.

Away from the streets the government can now reform public bodies without the approval of parliament. With most parliamentarians away for summer holidays only a small number were sitting when the government proposed and passed a bill giving it the able to reform public bodies by issuing presidential decrees. This could be an important power as the governing coalition has a thin majority and must push through more cuts and changes to the civil service to satisfy the troika. Many of these reforms are unpopular and resistance is expected to build up in the autumn.


Sep 15 2013 17:44

Hey, thanks for the update, especially as someone else here observed Greece has fallen out of the news recently.

On the police assault on the University, does that mean they came onto university grounds? Is that now no longer a sanctuary?

Sep 15 2013 18:44

I was away most of the summer so didn't have much time to post anything, sorry.

The sanctuary laws were removed during a reform of universities a year or so ago. So police can now enter university grounds as they did in this case.