An updated summary of events of the Greek riots in Thessaloniki from 6 December-31 December 2008 by communist group Blaumachen. (Updated 2nd Jan 2009.)
We present below a rough chronology of events that took place in Greece’s second largest city from Saturday 6th of December up until Wednesday 31st of December. During the first five days, when thousands of enraged proletarians got to the streets and set these cities of commodity on fire, we lived the peak of the recent upheaval, at least in Thessaloniki and other provincial cities and towns. During those days, we came across school kids, students, young (mainly, but not only) workers, unemployed, immigrant youngsters. Violent behaviors at streets and clashes were much lesser after December 11. An important thing about the upheaval in Thessaloniki, in contrast to Athens, is that although almost every university department was occupied by students, very few high schools were occupied, especially after the first week. For the most part, much lesser school kids participated in demonstrations and actions after the first five days of the upheaval. Immigrant youngsters only participated in the massive clashes, attacks and looting that had taken place from Sunday 7th until Tuesday 10th of December.
This short presentation cannot satisfy the need for an in-depth account of the recent unrest in Greece. It’s just a first attempt to inform comrades and proletarians abroad about the ongoing events from the perspective of people participating in them.
Saturday, 6th of December
Immediately after 15-year-old Alexis-Andreas Gregoropoulos was shot dead by police special guard in Athens, 300 people, mainly anarchist and leftist militants, gathered in Polytechnics School of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), which is located near the commercial and historical city centre. A spontaneous demonstration headed towards the police station at Aristotelous sq (the most touristic square of the city), where fights with cops took place. At the same time, there were people fighting riot police with stones and Molotov cocktails around Syntrivani sq, near AUTH. Clashes with cops continued throughout the night.
Sunday, 7th of December
A demonstration commenced from Kamara sq (located in the students’ quarter near AUTH) at 12 pm. 1500-2000 people (mainly high school kids and university students, young workers, antiauthoritarian and leftist militants) marched along the commercial streets of the city centre (Egnatia, Agias Sofias, Tsimiski), smashing bank and shop windows, heading to the police station at Aristotelous sq. There, many protesters attacked police with stones and some firebombs. A cop was set on fire. Police responded with tear gas. The demo continued along Ermou and Venizelou streets to the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace. Many stores and the city hall were smashed at Venizelou st. After reaching the Ministry, the demonstration headed along Agiou Dimitriou st to the police station of Ano Poli, where riot policemen were attacked again. While returning to Kamara sq, a supermarket was looted by youngsters. As the demo was ending, high school kids attempted to loot a bookstore and new clashes with riot police started.
Later in the evening, the Higher School of Drama and the offices of Thessaloniki’s Bar Association were occupied, the first by Drama students and anarchists and the second mainly by leftist students. Both these spots, located in the city centre, were going to be used as meeting points for people participating in the protests.
During the night, clashes with cops took place outside AUTH. A rioter was injured by a police rubber bullet. During the same night, the police station in the eastern district of Toumpa, the town hall of Agios Pavlos district and the party offices of Nea Demokratia (this is the government party in Greece) in 40 Ekklisies district were attacked.
Monday, 8th of December
At 10am, 400 high school kids demonstrated in Toumpa district and attacked the police station once again. Road blockades took place in other districts of the city as well. Meanwhile, 1500 high school kids erected barricades and clashed with riot police at Svolou and Ethnikis Amynis streets and Navarinou sq, in the students’ quarter of the city centre. Stores at Tsimiski and Venizelou streets were attacked, too. Nine university faculties were occupied by students. During the same morning the police station in the western district of Sykies was attacked, too.
A demonstration was called at 6.30 pm at Kamara sq. 6000 people marched in the city centre. There were high school and university students, some immigrant youngsters, hooligans, young workers, antiauthoritarian and leftist militants. A great number of banks and shops (mobile phone, electronics, clothing and fast food companies and jewelries) were destroyed, mainly at Tsimiski st, the city’s most commercial road, and Venizelou st. Some of the shops were looted too. Clashes with cops took place in front of the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace. Cops used a great amount of tear gases. Fights with cops continued around AUTH during the night.
Tuesday, 9th of December
This was the day when the funeral of Alexis took place in Palaio Faliro, Athens. Fresh general assemblies of students took place voting for the occupation of many university departments. Teachers of primary and secondary schools were on strike and there was a work stoppage after 12 pm for all public sector workers. A demonstration was called at 12 pm at Kamara Sq. 4000 people participated and headed towards the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace, where limited clashes with police took place. During Tuesday, prisoners all over Greece abstained from food, protesting against the murder of Alexis by cops and in solidarity to the ongoing revolt.
During the night there were some fights between youngsters and riot police in the university area. We have to mention that during these days many university departments were looted by school kids and immigrant youngsters coming from various suburbs. During the same night, fascists appeared near the university. The same happened in many cities all over Greece, especially in Patras, something that indicates that this was an organised government’s plan. In some cases, like in Larisa, fascists attacked rioters together with undercover cops and “angry shop owners”.
Wednesday, 10th of December
This was a day of general strike, called much earlier by the General Labour Confederation of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEDY) against the 2009 state budget. Due to the ongoing riots, the chief unionists announced on Tuesday that they would cancel the proclaimed demonstrations. In Thessaloniki, the local branches of GSEE and ADEDY tried to constrain strikers in a peaceful gathering in front of the city’s Trade Union Center. High school kids and university students appeared there determined to drag strikers in a demonstration and they succeeded. 4000 students and workers marched towards the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace. There, a few high school kids attacked the cops who responded with tear gases. Fights continued for half an hour in an area of 500m between the Ministry and the Trade Union Center. A few kids fought police, but many workers and students supported them by remaining in the place and insulting the cops. Finally, cops were compelled to draw back. After that, 500 people blockaded Egnatia st - a central avenue in the city centre - for more than an hour.
In the evening, high school kids clashed for a while with riot police at Ethnikis Amynis st. During the same evening, the occupation of Thessaloniki’s Bar Association offices ended.
Thursday, 11th of December
In early afternoon, 80 antiauthoritarian militants attacked the offices of the local Newspaper “Macedonia” at Monastiriou St.
A demo was called by the School of Drama occupation at 5 pm at Kamara Sq. 2000 people, mainly university students and antiauthoritarian militants and few high school kids, demonstrated peacefully towards the eastern heavily inhabited districts of the city, chanting and drawing on walls slogans against state repression. No clashes took place this day, as far as we know.
Friday, 12th of December
A demonstration, called by the School of Drama occupation, left Kamara sq at 6.30 pm. 1500-2000 people, mainly antiauthoritarian militants, students and young workers, headed to the western, working class districts of the city. Demonstrators crossed Neapoli and Sykies districts and returned to the School of Drama through the north-central district of Ano Poli. Despite the heavy rain, the demo lasted 3h, slogans against cops and the state or others calling for the immediate release of everyone arrested during last days were ceaselessly repeated and drawn on walls; many leaflets were handed out. Many local habitants applauded, while others joined the demo, a fact that manifests a wider sympathy with the insurrection even from proletarians that didn’t participate in riots or other actions. A political office of LAOS (far right-wing party) was attacked and set on fire; a political office of Nea Dimokratia was attacked too. This same evening, extra-parliamentary left militants demonstrated in nearby areas.
Saturday, 13th of December
In the afternoon, 500 people, mainly antiauthoritarian militants, gathered at Kamara sq. They constituted a block and headed to Aristotelous sq, where mostly extra-parliamentary left militants gathered after AUTH’s Coordination of General Assemblies and Occupations call for a demo. The two groups joined initially a common demonstration of 1000 people along Egnatia str. After a while, the two blocks split being a few meters apart from each other. They both marched along Nikis avenue, the coastal road of the city center, full of cafÈs and bars, where many banks’ surveillance cameras were smashed. Leftists headed to the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace while most people left the demo. This was the first demonstration after 7 days that had a rather political than social character.
Sunday, 14th of December
A motorbike demonstration commenced from the occupied School of Drama at 1 pm. It headed to the far western suburbs of the city -Stavroupoli, Evosmos, Eptalofos, Xirokrini- where many immigrants from Russia and Albania and low-waged workers live. Some of them joined the demo. When returning, demonstrators passed in front of the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace and the police station of Ano Poli and headed back to the School of Drama.
Another demonstration took place in the faraway south-eastern suburb of Peraia. 60 school kids and students marched to the police station and then to the town hall, where they placed a banner proclaiming: “Down with the government of killers and police”.
Monday, 15th of December
Early in the morning, an initiative of militants from the School of Drama occupation occupied the town hall of the western district of Sykies, in order to transform it into a local counter-information center and call for a local popular assembly. Popular assemblies in neighborhoods and occupations of state or municipal buildings emerged as a new form of struggle initially in
Athens, introduced by the occupation of the town hall in the suburb of Agios Demetrios, the occupation of the old town hall in Halandri northern suburb and the occupation of Galaxias in Nea Smirni suburb. During this week, this form of struggle spread to other districts and suburbs in Athens and many cities all over Greece.
During the day, local habitants passed by the occupied town hall of Sykies; some of them were sympathetic with the action, others just curious. In the evening, at least 200 people met there in a first popular assembly; mainly participants in the protests and riots of the previous days, but also local habitants sympathetic with the ongoing upheaval. The assembly decided to call for a local demonstration on Wednesday afternoon and organise local counter-information actions on Tuesday. This assembly continues to take place at the town hall till now.
During Monday, many general assemblies of students took place in AUTH, voting for occupying university departments against state repression. Most student assemblies also demanded government’s resignation and police’s disarmament. From what some students told us, general assemblies were massive, reminding the ones that had taken place during the 2006-2007 student movement. During this week, more students actively participated in the occupations, comparatively to last week, when the single meeting point for anyone had been the streets.
Tuesday, 16th of December
On Tuesday, the trial of 8 cops took place in Thessaloniki’s courthouse; they were accused for heavily beating Avgoustinos Demetriou, a student from Cyprus, in the 17th of November 2006, when in duty and undercover. Although found guilty and sentenced to 15-39 months of imprisonment, they were remanded on bail for 5 Euros a day. 150 people gathered outside the courthouse to protest against police. When the judgment on the case was pronounced, people attacked riot police guarding courthouse’s entrance with stones, eggs and empty bottles. Cops responded using tear gases and beating protesters.
At 7 pm a demonstration called by AUTH’s Coordination of General Assemblies and Occupations commenced from Kamara sq. Approximately 3000 people, for the most part university students, marched along the major streets of the city center and headed to the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace. During the demo, slogans and stencils were being drawn on shop windows and walls; militant students occupied for a while three radio stations, broadcasting statements and communiquÈs. No clashes took place, although cops were heavily insulted when seen.
During Tuesday, fresh general assemblies of students took place and more university departments were occupied. The occupied School of Cinematography, located in the western, working class Stavroupoli suburb, called for 7 days of popular screenings and open discussions in the neighborhood.
Wednesday, 17th of December
In the morning, a Carrefour supermarket in Stavroupoli suburb was looted by 50 militants. Goods were handed out in a neighboring open-air market.
At 2.30 pm a demonstration, called by the first popular assembly in the occupied town hall of Sykies, commenced from the former prison of Genti Koule and continued along the streets of Sykies district. Later in the evening, the second popular assembly took place in Sykies. Participants were much fewer than the previous time, mainly local habitants.
Meanwhile, the first popular assembly in Ano Poli district took place at 6 pm, with more than 200 people attending it, mostly young people (workers and students) who participated in the protests and riots of the previous days and many of whom live in this partly preserved and alternative city’s district, but also some other local habitants of various ages sympathetic with the ongoing unrest. The assembly was held in the building of the municipal library, which had in the past housed a social center evicted by cops a decade ago. Many people contributed to the discussion with accounts of the previous days’ events, while proposing that an essential demand to be claimed is the immediate release of everyone arrested. Counter-information gatherings were arranged for the next day. After the assembly had finished, 150 people participated in a spontaneous demo in the streets of Ano Poli, chanting and drawing slogans against cops, wage labour and the state.
During the same evening, militant students organized another popular assembly in the far western district of Ampelokipi, as far as we know.
Thursday, 18th of December
AUTH’s Coordination of General Assemblies and Occupations called for a demonstration at Kamara sq at 11am. Due to the heavy rain, only 300 militants gathered and headed to the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace.
In the evening, a music concert was organised at YMCA sq, next to Thessaloniki’s International Exhibition area, by the occupied School of Drama, with several alternative artists participating. 4000-5000 people of various ages were there. Many leaflets calling for solidarity to the arrested were handed out, while respective announcements were made through loudspeakers. This concert ended after midnight. Later at night, another music concert took place in the Polytechnics School called by AUTH’s Coordination of General Assemblies and Occupations.
Friday, 19th of December
The second popular assembly in Ano Poli took place in Koule Kafe sq, in front of the previously mentioned municipal library. 100-150 people participated; counter-information gatherings were arranged for the next day.
Saturday, 20th of December
Around 10 am, antiauthoritarian militants occupied Olympion cinema, city’s most luxurious cinema and home of the International Film Festival of Thessaloniki, at the heart of the city center. Official movie screenings gave place to militant movies and documentaries for the next of the day. Cinema’s cafÈ was used as a meeting place for occupants and passersby, with drinks consumed for free. Thousands of leaflets were handed out. Nearby the occupied Olympion slogans were yelled and a box of candies was thrown to Thessaloniki’s mayor during a street charity event which was disrupted. A small police force came immediately in order to defend the ridiculed mayor. At 6 pm, 400-500 people gathered in an open assembly that took place in the ‘Liberated Olympion Cinema’. Many accounts of the recent unrest and proposals for the future were discussed. Late in the evening the occupation ended with a demonstration of 1000-1500 people along Nikis avenue and Ethnikis Aminis str. Cops guarding the Christmas tree were attacked with paints; surveillance cameras were destroyed.
Sunday, 21st of December
The third popular assembly took place in Ano Poli. Approximately 100 people occupied temporarily the church of Taksiarches, where they proposed and discussed actions for the next day. A priest threatened to exorcise attendants! This church’s occupation constituted a major scandal for conservative parts of the local society. The next day, a dozen of undercover cops guarded Taksiarches church, while riot police guarded another famous church in Ano Poli district.
Monday, 22nd of December
Early in the morning, the municipal library of Ano Poli was occupied in order to house the popular assemblies and be used as a counter-information center. During the morning, leaflets were distributed by occupants in the streets and high schools of Ano Poli. The fourth popular assembly took place in the evening. Besides organising actions for the next day, a major theme of the assembly was the idea of calling for actions in the city center during Christmas promoting that “this year we don’t celebrate Christmas, we riot”.
Tuesday, 23rd of December
At 6.30, a local demonstration, called by the occupied municipal library, took place along major streets of Ano Poli district, with 100 militants from the antiauthoritarian milieu participating. Many leaflets calling for the immediate release of the arrested and denouncing Christmas celebrations were handed out to workers in shops, habitants and passers by. After the demo, the occupation of the municipal library ended against the background of the shrinking social unrest. This fact made impossible to organise any protests or other actions during Christmas, as well.
Retour à la normale?
So far so good. Life in the city of Thessaloniki seems to return back to normality. Though, a few meetings of militants continue to take place, as in the occupied School of Drama, in the eastern suburb of Kalamaria and in Ano Poli. Yesterday, Tuesday 30th of December, 100 people demonstrated in Kalamaria against new year celebrations, calling for the immediate release of the arrested, while workers, immigrants and militants occupied the Trade Union Center of Thessaloniki, expressing their solidarity to the Bulgarian unionist worker in ISAP (Subway in Athens and Piraeus), Konstantina Kouneva, who was attacked with sulfuric acid in December 23; she is still at hospital in a very bad health condition.
As for tonight, there is a call for gathering at Rotonda sq half an hour after midnight: “At new year’s night, we won’t stay home awaiting another dead year; we’ll go out to play and streets will be ours; everything has changed, riot is now a part of our life; for every murdered moment, for all friends that are not alive, for everything we feel and seek”.
It’s almost impossible for anyone to estimate whether or how this social unrest will continue after the 7th of January, the day that schools and universities reopen after holidays. Regardless of what will happen, nothing will be the same not only for us who have been in the streets but for the whole working class in this country as well.
Blaumachen and friends
Thessaloniki, 31st of December 2008