Chronology: December 6-25, 2008
3. These days are for Alexis
Saturday December 6, 2008: Two cops confront a group of young anarchists on Mesollogiou Street in Exarchia, Athens. Cop Epaminondas Korkoneas shoots and kills fifteen-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos. Within an hour people gather and soon begin clashing with police. Some anarchists quickly make the critical decision to occupy the Polytechnic. Attacks on police, banks, and luxury stores spread to Patision Avenue, Ermou, and to the universities Nomiki and Pantio. Friends of Alexis fight off police attempts to enter Evaggelismos Hospital, where his body has been taken. Seventy luxury shops on Ermou are smashed and burnt to the ground, and a seven-floor megastore is torched. People in the cafes and bars hear the news and join in.Anarchists also occupy ASOEE university and leftists and anti-authoritarians occupy Nomiki, the law school. By the end of the night, much of the city is filled with tear gas, police have been chased out of many neighbourhoods, and multiple police stations have been attacked. News of the killing and the riots spread throughout Greece via internet and cell phone. Starting within just a couple hours of the murder, major spontaneous protests attack police stations and banks in Thessaloniki, Iraklion, Chania, Patras, Ionnina, Kavala, and Volos. Smaller demonstrations occur in Rethymnon, Komotini, Mytilini, Alexandropouli, Serres, Sparta, Corfu, Xanthi, Larissa, Naxos, Agrinio, and countless small towns.
December 7: In Athens a demonstration of over 10,000 people immediately turns into a riot causing major property damage, burning down many corporate and luxury shops. Police attack with thousands of tear gas canisters, but are frequently chased away sometimes even being routed by rioters. Riot police try to occupy Exarchia and residents pelt them with stones and flower pots, More banks and police stations are burned. Police are only able to carry out seven arrests throughout the day owing to heavy and generalised resistance. In Thessaloniki 1,000 people break away from a protest march of 3,000 and attack a police station. After the leftists leave the march it continues to attack government buildings and another police station, setting up barricades and burning luxury stores. Police attack the university and theatre school occupations. Police and demonstrators alike are injured in the fighting. In Iraklion and Patras there are demonstrations of 600 and 1,000 people, respectively with the anarchists forming large blocs at the end as usual. In both cities many banks are attacked, causing the leftists in Patras to leave the march. In Corfu several hundred people protest. After demonstrators clash with police, a dozen youth from KKE (the Communist Party) and PASOK lock the university and refuse to let the protesters in, leaving them at the mercy of the riot police.There is also a large, violent demonstration in Ionnina involving 1,000 people, it is attacked by police, who hospitalise three. Other protests and actions occur in Mytilini, Ithaki, Larissa, Pyrgos, Karditsa, Kavala, Xanthi, Volos, Serres, Sparta, Kozani, Arta, and Naxos. In some cases in small cities, groups of as few as ten people carry out bold actions like attacking police stations with molotovs and dispersing before they can be caught, as occurred in Pyrgos. In Kozani an anarchist demo of just eighty people besieges the local police station, kicking out journalists and building barricades. In other places, events unfold rather peacefully as in Sparta where anarchists occupy a university and set up an infopoint.
December 8: Many schools and universities are closed this Monday But rather than stay at home, students occupy their schools or take to the streets. In Athens alone, thousands of students march on and attack police stations all over the city Meanwhile, anarchists at the Polytechnic battle police for hours and burn down all the computer stores on Stournari Street. More than 200 arson attacks occur across the city and the huge, decorative Christmas tree on Syntagma Square is burnt down. Cops open fire on rioters with live ammo. Many police stations, banks, government offices, ministries, luxury stores, and corporate chain stores are smashed or burned completely Dozens of cops are injured. In Piraeus all the police cars parked at the police station are destroyed by local high school students. In Thessaloniki students and extreme Left organisations hold multiple protests, and occupy the Lawyers Association building to use it as a counter-information center. Police stations and government ministries are attacked with stones and molotovs, and a student march down the principal avenue, Egnatia, destroys every bank on the street, along with many other stores, while burning Greek flags. In Patras, anarchists occupy a local TV station to broadcast counter-information. In Iraklion, a march of 2,000 people forces police to retreat, and at night the city is engulfed in rioting, in which many Roma, hooligans, and poor people participate alongside anarchists and students. Most banks in the city centre are torched. Thousands of people, mostly students, march and riot in Chania, Larissa, Rhodes, Nafplio, Chios, Egio, Veria, Kavala, Agrinio, Aliveri, Alexandroupoli, Chaldiki, Giannitsa, Syros, Ierapetra, Kastoria, Korinthos, Kyprarissia, Pyrgos, Corfu, Xanthi, Kilkis, Trikala, Serres, Tripoli, Mytilini, Kalamata, Moudros, Lamia, Kozani, Florina, Edessa, and elsewhere. In each place between 50 and 2,000 people participate, and actions range from blockading the police station and pelting it with garbage, to pelting police with molotovs and rocks and burning down banks. In several cities, youth with the KKE try to protect the police or prevent the occupation of universities.
December 9: Cops provoke the massive crowd at Alexis’s burial, shooting tear gas just as he is being interred, leading to more fighting. At the time most of the anarchists in Athens are at the funeral, yet heavy street fighting is simultaneously being carried out by non-political people throughout the city. The ASOEE occupation successfully repels a MAT attack. Thousands of prisoners throughout Greece boycott meals for the day in commemoration of Alexis, even though they are recovering from their hunger strike. Anarchists expropriate food from supermarkets to feed the university occupations or to distribute it on the streets. Multiple police stations across the city are attacked. Immigrants are hunted by police and fascists. Fighting and protesting continues in other cities and towns across the country There are major protests in Thessaloniki, Patras,Volos, and Ioannina, that are brutally attacked by police trying to stop the uprising. In Thessaloniki and Patras cops and fascists work together to attack the anarchists and the occupations.
December 10: The General Confederation of Greek Workers calls off the general strike it had already scheduled months earlier for that day Tens of thousands of people gather in the streets anyway and fighting with police resumes throughout Athens. Many workers, including air traffic controllers, walk off the job, bringing transportation to a halt. Police are increasingly assisted by fascists in Athens, while in Thessaloniki members of the KKE unmask and beat a rioter. Protests, occupations, and riots continue in other cities and towns throughout Greece. A group of about 100 Roma attack a police station in the Zefyri suburb of Athens. Total damages up to that point are estimated at fifty million euros, 554 buildings have been attacked, and twenty-seven cars set on fire. By the end the total cost of damages would quadruple.
December 11: The city hall of Aghios Dimitrios is occupied by residents. Throughout Athens students hold assemblies or fight on the streets alongside anarchists. In the afternoon, twenty-five police stations throughout the city are besieged and multiple undercover cops are put in the hospital. One hundred twenty schools in Athens are occupied by their students. Police request more tear gas from Israel; they have run out. In Piraeus anti-authoritarian students manage to kick the KKE out of the university so they can occupy it. In Thessaloniki a march of about 600, mostly anarchists, is attacked by police, but residents join them and the protest swells to 3,000, repelling police. Five thousand protest in Patras. Demonstrations, actions, and occupations continue to occur in other cities and towns.
December 12: In Athens Flash FM radio is occupied but the signal is quickly cut. A government building in the Chalandri neighbourhood is occupied and turned into an infopoint. The old city hall in the same neighbourhood is occupied to house an open popular assembly Students organise a massive march in the centre of Athens.They are attacked by police and fight back. Outside Parliament there is a peaceful sit down protest. Police attack the Nomiki occupation and are repelled by the people. Many cops are set on fire. All over the country open assemblies are held in university occupations. The city hall in Ioannina is occupied. At night a massive, peaceful, candlelit protest is held in Athens in commemoration of Alexis.
December 13-23: Thousands of actions, too many to count, occur across Athens and in many other cities and towns, including occupations, counter-information. The large scale production of pamphlets and texts speaking to hundreds of themes to counteract the lies broadcast by the media commences. Protests, propaganda work, supermarket expropriations, actions to liberate the public transportation, assemblies, attacks against specific targets, and direct communication with society on a diffuse and massive scale continues.
December 16: A group of artists and anarchists occupies NET the major public television station in Athens, interrupting a speech by the prime minister and broadcasting a message urging people to turn off their TVs and take to the streets.
December 17: The central building of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) in Athens is occupied by anarcho-autonomous base unions, supported by anarchists and libertarians. Roughly six hundred people participate in their assembly every afternoon.
December 21: The occupation of the GSEE ends.
December 23: Three thousand protesters march through Athens. In the afternoon a riot police bus is shot up with automatic rifles in Zografou, a neighbourhood of Athens. Bulgarian immigrant worker Konstantina Kuneva is brutally attacked by unknown assailants, probably in retaliation for her activity organising fellow precarious cleaning workers and her association with the GSEE occupation.
December 24: Several hundred anarchist stage a peaceful march through Athens.
December 25: Christmas is exploited to the maximum extent as a social symbol of peace, tradition, the atomisation of social life into the private sphere, and consumption. In the official narrative Christmas marks the definitive end of the revolt; however arson attacks targeting banks, car dealerships, and government officials in multiple Athens neighbourhoods as well as in Ioannina promise a continued struggle.
The world left behind
“There was a protest scheduled for earlier that day, the 6th of December,” she was telling me, an ironic twinkle in her eye. “I remember, we had a meeting to discuss what to do. At the protest would we throw stones, or paint bombs, or just trash? We decided to throw trash. We knew that nothing much would happen at the protest, and we weren't prepared for strong clashes with the police. It was just another day. Nothing out of the ordinary could be seen on the horizon. Before nine o’clock that night, Athens was the most miserable place in the world. The same as everywhere else."
Suddenly i heard a bang
Lito: An Exarchia resident whose balcony overlooks the spot where Alexis Grigoropoulos was murdered.
I’m not so involved in any political activities. I’m not an activist. I can only speak about the killing. I can’t take a position on all the other things that happened because all these other things are very complicated and I don’t have clear thoughts on them.
Exarchia has always been an alternative, counter-culture neighbourhood. For many years it was a frequent occurrence that something would happen on a street corner in Exarchia and suddenly everyone from the cafés and the bars and the sidewalks would pour out into the streets and run to see what was happening. Usually it was incidents between people and police, some fights, confrontations, insults, shouting matches. In the old times it happened very often. Then there was a period when this didn’t happen so much, but in the last years it has started becoming more common again.
The reason that I found myself with a camera on the balcony that night was because I had always wanted to film one of these confrontations that are always taking place below my window But every time I would come to my balcony to see what was happening, I got delayed. By the time I went back inside to get my camera it was too late, it was already over. This happened to me many times. And the last time that it happened, I said to myself, the next time, first I’ll grab the camera and then I’ll go to the balcony.
And the next time turned out to be an incident that I never expected could happen. Two years earlier a friend visited me from Germany and he mentioned that the police here seem very provocative and dangerous. Even though he was a tourist, the way they behaved made him feel less safe, they made him feel endangered. And when this friend heard about what happened on the 6th of December, he wrote that he wasn’t at all surprised. But I was.
All the previous times, I never got scared observing these lights between people and the police. It was part of my everyday life in Exarchia. It was something commonplace. Because the Exarchia locals express their negation of authority firmly and they believe in it, whenever something was happening I didn’t need to take a position or make a stand because it was just a part of life in this area. Of course in the ten years that I’ve lived in this flat, I’ve observed year after year a gradual increase in the police presence, an intensification. Policemen began to appear on every corner in the neighbourhood, in groups, and also they were armoured. Observing armoured police in full riot gear carrying pistols, tear gas guns, and machine guns - was feeling more and more intense. In this period the slogan started to appear on the walls: "on every street corner there are police, the junta didn’t end in ’73."
On December 6 I was here in the apartment with my German friend. He was cooking in the kitchen and I was in the living room. Suddenly I heard a bang. I hadn’t heard any noise before that. Nothing was happening in the streets, no shouts, nothing. Without warning there was just a bang. It seemed to me that it came from down the street, on the left-hand side. Despite the surprise, this time I remembered to grab my camera first. I was not in a panic, I didn’t feel anything unusual, I just calmly got the camera and went to the balcony I didn’t think anything extraordinary had happened. I looked outside, but I didn't turn the camera on in the beginning because nothing was happening. I saw a few youths down to the left, sitting like they always do. The young anarchists are always hanging out down there, although this night there were fewer than normal. And on the right-hand side, up the street, I saw a police car parked at the corner. One moment after the police car drove off, I saw two cops coming back on foot, and this was very strange to me. I asked myself, what are they going to do? They arrived at the spot where the car had been before, and started provoking the kids, saying "Come on you pussies!" When I heard this I shouted to the German guy, "Come look! The police came and they’re starting a fight." He would get a chance to see this phenomenon of the Greek cops provoking a fight by insulting people. It’s normal that the police speak bad to people, but this was too much. It was provocative because they parked the police car and they came walking back and shouting challenges. That’s how normalpeople start a fight. It was like a personal fight, not the usual provocation by police.
Immediately after that they both took out their guns, both the cops. This was never mentioned by the media. And I got one surprise after another. First they came back on foot, then they started a fight by insulting the kids, then they took out their guns, and then they took aim-in a moment when there was no challenge and no threat, there was no fight or confrontation going on. And they shot. I heard two shots but I can’t say if both of them shot or if one shot twice. It's possible that one of them shot twice. And they turned around and just left, simple as that, as though nothing had happened. Me, until that moment, it didn’t occur to me to look to the left, to the group of kids, because it was all so incredibly strange, the behaviour of these two policemen. There was no need to look to the other side because nothing was happening there. And then I heard the people in the street shout that a kid had been shot. And then I felt panic. I ran inside, grabbed the telephone and called an ambulance, and I went down to the street. I saw just one kid lying there, and I was shocked. Everybody was shouting and many people were fainting. The kid wasn't dead yet, and a doctor had appeared and was trying to administer first aid. Then the ambulance arrived and he died inside in the ambulance, I think.
I found out from other people that the first bang had been a concussion grenade. Apparently someone had thrown a plastic bottle at the police car and yelled an insult as it was passing and the police responded by throwing the grenade from the car. That’s not so unusual here. It’s normal to shout, everyone in Greece is shouting at each other. So I’m sure the policemen hadn’t been threatened, they weren’t defending themselves. Really if a policeman feels a serious threat, he doesn’t drive down to the next corner then walk back to clean up the situation. Usually when the police feel a threat or feel like they’re under attack, they drive off, they get out of there. The police were not on the defensive at that moment.
I went back up and tried to watch the video on my computer, but I couldn’t because I was missing some program. So I knocked on my neighbours door and said I recorded something but I don’t know what it is. Can we put it in your computer so I can see what it is? And we saw the video, and the way I felt, I had never felt that way in my entire life. We called down all the people from the entire neighbourhood, everyone, we all came down onto the streets, and the energy the atmosphere, was one of rage. It was overflowing all the streets, everywhere people were pouring out of their houses onto the streets. Everybody.
The riot police had the gall to come here, back to this corner where the first cop car had stopped, and where the shots were fired. And of course everybody started shouting at them, young people, old people, normal people, everyone was shouting at them to go the hell away.
About two hours after the shooting, it’s impossible to say exactly how long but it was about two hours. The secret police came. I was back in my house listening to the radio and the TV which were saying there were riots in Exarchia, that the police had been attacked and fired in self-defence, but this wasn’t true. And the riots hadn’t even started yet. And from my window I saw men without uniforms looking at the walls of the buildings around the shooting. The secret police had come to search for the shell casings and the bullets, to investigate the area. I was with my neighbour, and I told him I was going down. I wanted to react somehow to what they were saying on the news. So I went down and I said that what they’re reporting on the television wasn’t true. One tall old guy came up to me with a greasy smile, and said, yes, and who are you? And I felt an amazing fear. Because I’m very naive,I just felt the obligation to go down and say the truth. But this guy he terrified me. So I backed off and said, no, who are you? And he told me his name and his position. He was the chief of the secret police agency and he was in charge of the autopsy and investigation. They took my name and telephone, and they asked me if I was going to come to the central police station to testify and I said "yes."
He asked me what happened. I brought him to the exact point where the policemen were standing when they opened fire. And that’s exactly where they found the shell casings. They asked me if I had a vehicle, if I could drive myself to the station. I responded "no" and they told me I would come with them. I said I hoped the people wouldn’t bomb the police car on the way and the chief laughed and said have no fear. He directed me to where a large group of riot police were
gathered, and I found myself in the middle of a MAT squad. It was right at that moment that the people attacked. The chief disappeared immediately he ran away and they left me while the people were attacking, and I saw all the guns that the police had and I flipped out. I couldn’t focus on anything. I felt how powerful the people were, they were full of rage. I can’t remember if they were attacking with stones or molotovs or clubs, only that they were overpowering and I had to get out of there. I ran away by myself and came back to my house.
Of course I was expecting that they would call me for an interview as a witness. But they never did. I spoke with a lawyer of the movement, Yianna Kurtovick, she’s one of the members of the Network for the Defence of Political Prisoners and Immigrants. And she brought me to the examining magistrate. I had to go to find the judge because the police never called me to testify. And after I testified, some days later, they closed the whole area to make the official report to prove whether the bullet hit the kid directly or if it ricocheted off the ground. That was the official story that the one cop had fired at the ground and the bullet bounced up and hit him.
The magistrate, the photographer, and the secretary came up to my balcony to take photographs. The chief of the secret police was down in the street. I called out to him, "Oh hello, you left me alone last time in the middle of a riot." And he answered, "I didn’t abandon you, it was you who was afraid that the rioters would burn us alive." And I said to him, "Don’t tell lies in front of all these people."
I ran to the Polytechnic
23.10: A person involved in the anarchist movement for some years.
December 6. So my friends phoned me and told me something very bad had happened. I ran to the Polytechnic. When I got there, we made sure that the story was true, that this boy had really been killed.And I began to feel that something very important was happening. Many people had begun to gather in the Polytechnic. It was clear that there would be some riots. Because it has happened before, that very young anarchists were killed in Exarchia. It happened in 1985, and there were riots. I felt like history was repeating itself. There were different trends in the Polytechnic. Some comrades said to focus our actions there, others said to go out on the streets, to attack police stations, or the commercial centre. I preferred the second option. This happened. Some of us left the university after the riots had begun. We went to a police station in the centre of Athens and we attacked with stones and molotovs. We were many we were not a group of some fifteen people, we were maybe 100. Then we attacked luxury stores in the commercial centre of Athens and we went back to the Polytechnic.
After I returned, some friends phoned me from Nomiki, the School of Law building, so I went there. It was occupied, there were many people there. Many were leftists, not anarchists, who were there to fight with the police. This is very unusual because the leftists have a very mechanical view of political violence. They say it’s not appropriate to fight the police until the movement is mature, and they use this as an excuse to never fight with the police. They build an identity out of it. But that night I saw hundreds of these people, including people I’ve argued with over this very issue, lighting with the police. This made me feel very emotional, seeing these people also fighting against the police.
I slept in the Polytechnic the first night. Many people had left the building. There were only a few dozen of us left in the building. To be honest, at that moment I thought that the incident had ended. Maybe some riots the next day because there would be a big demonstration, but then things would end.
The next day there were thousands of people at the big demonstration. Some wild riots, very wild riots. We didn’t manage to get very close to the police headquarters, the objective for the demonstration, but there were big riots. I went back to the Polytechnic, there were also big riots happening there. But I thought that things would end then, on Sunday.
Next day, Monday, December 8, there was a demonstration. I’m still not sure who organised it. But I think some Left groups organised this demo. I had underestimated the situation, I thought nothing would happen on Monday. But that morning strange events began to occur. School students in many parts of Greece began to attack police stations. Some friends phoned me and told me that in Piraeus, which is usually indifferent, nothing happens there, school students attacked the police station and rolled police cars over. News like this began to appear from everywhere that morning.
But I had underestimated the afternoon demo. I went to the demo at the last moment because I was very tired from the previous days, and I thought maybe I wouldn’t go. When I came up from the metro, I saw tens of thousands of people. I couldn’t believe it. The demo hadn’t begun and already some people, very young people, unknown people, had already started to fight with police. The demo started but it began to lose its purpose as a demonstration because riots were beginning on all sides.
I’ve seen many violent things in protests throughout my life. I don't say this to speak about myself but just to let you know. In this demo I began to feel afraid. To be honest, the violence was blind. There were molotovs thrown inside buildings while people were still in them. I was afraid not for myself, but that something very bad would happen and anarchism could not politically defend it. I met a friend of mine, an anarchist, and I asked her what she thought and she said "I’m not sure I want to be here," and I felt the same. Around us were unknown young people throwing molotovs, fighting with the police, burning buildings, shops, everything. Many of the shops were already closed, and in the others, the people were getting out of there.
The sense of the demonstration had been lost. It was all riots. Soon people began to break into big groups. They went down different streets, they rioted. Smashing and burning. Mostly unknown people. Young people, second generation immigrants, Gypsies, Greeks, everything. Most of them were masked. But the presence of certain demographics, like the immigrants was very obvious. After this, when the riots began to calm down in a way, I went to Syntagma Square, where I saw the big Christmas tree burning. I went to Norniki, which was occupied by AK and some Left groups. I went there not so much because I agree with these people politically but because I was close by and thought it was safest to go there. And there were riots there too, something was happening.
At Nomiki there were many anarchists and other people, unknown people, who didn’t belong to these specific groups. By cell phone we learned that riots had happened in many other places, like the Polytechnic, ASOEE, and another university three or four kilometres away One friend phoned me, a very experienced guy about forty-years-old, and said “I’m very afraid, some amazing things are happening here.”A very experienced person. He was also in Genova.
On the 8th, Monday the anarchists themselves were surprised by the level of violence coming from many parts of society. They felt anxious. These were the people who before were very active and very violent, and now they felt surprised and even a little anxious about society, They felt that society had surpassed them. This created anxiety among people, and I’m not talking about the pacifist anarchists.
I didn’t feel so safe in Nomiki because I saw many buildings on fire in the area and I thought that maybe the police would begin massive arrests. When things began to calm at Nomiki, I thought it was a good moment to move to the Polytechnic. It was night time when I went there, and I saw that the streets were mostly deserted, there were only some people who had been participating in the riots. The riots at the Polytechnic had also begun to calm down, but everything was burned down. There were many people in the university many second generation immigrants, also first generation immigrants. Many people felt a kind of disappointment. There were many people there, we did not know them, they weren't anarchists, many of them had been stealing things from the shops that were broken open and we didn’t agree with this, we just thought the things should be burned. We didn’t feel safe there. But there were also anarchists who said we should support them, they should be able to do what they want. That was Monday.
The following days there were occupations of university buildings and municipal buildings starting in towns around Athens. The social climate was very friendly toward the anarchists at this time.
I began to be more involved in the occupation of the ASOEE, where there were more people I know and more politically involved people. But I also had some doubts, whether it was right to be there, where there were anarchists, or to be in the Polytechnic where the subjects of this struggle were: young people, immigrants, unknown people. So I tried to strike a balance, going sometimes to ASOEE and sometimes to the Polytechnic. The anarchists organised many actions and many attacks in the following days - some things that under other circumstances, we wouldn’t dare to do. But because we felt the climate around us was quite friendly, maybe we felt more safe to carry out actions like this. There was a discussion among us that in one or two days, it will all end. But the end never came. New things were always happening. New occupations in the provincial areas of Greece, attacks against police and state targets.
And then somewhere around the 20th of December, there was the assault against the Bulgarian syndicalist, Konstantina Kuneva. She was attacked to punish her organising activities, and some other people began to get even more involved with the whole situation. People had meetings about incidents like this. It led to an occupation of the central trade union of Greece which lasted some days. And then people from the workers movement, whom we hadn’t seen in the previous days, came out on the streets and to the assemblies. And sometime around Christmas, the situation began to calm down.
Homo sacer quartet
Flesh Machine: An anarchist magazine “on the body and its desiring machines” published in Athens.
A boy resides out-of-place. Two pigs charge into the out-of-place. In the conjuncture of these two trajectories, an event is born. The boy challenges the violation of the border of his out-of-place by the pigs. The pigs park in-place and cross, once again, the limits of the heterotopia, this time on foot. The pigs enjoin the boy. The boy responds to the injunction. The pigs shoot and destroy the life that "is not worth being lived." The pigs return to in-place. The borders of the out-of-place are ruptured and urban space, from end to end, is recomposed into a thick burning network of heterotopia: the city is on fire.
For sovereignty every life out-of-place is a life that is not worth being lived. The state of exception is imposed, even by suspension,on every life out-of-place, on every life that is acted not as a contemplation of privacy and its commodity-panoply but as a social relation, as a self-constituted construction of the space and time of conviviality. The sovereign exception is not so much about the control or the destruction of an excess in itself, but about the creation or the definition of a space where juridico-political order can be perpetually validated. The state of exception classifies space and the bodies withinit. It puts them in order. It imposes order upon them. With assimilation, commodification, surveillance, and discipline. Executing the delinquent with prisons, psychiatric units, marginalisation. And wherever, whenever might be necessary with bullets, with bullets, with bullets.
In a society dedicated to the production of privacies the murder of a boy can only be conceptualised in the terms of the value of his privacy, the ontological base of property: the sacred right to one’s own life. This is the only way in which death can be political: as a destruction of the source of property The destruction of property, let alone of its source, is a dreadful crime in the bourgeois world. Even, or especially when it is committed by the apparatus charged with its protection. But to destroy properties in order to take revenge for the destruction of property that is a doubly nefarious crime: have you not understood a thing? All those tears, all the dirge, the requiems are not for a boy that attacked the power-that-safeguards-property, they are for the power that failed in its duty: the duty to defend life as the ultimate property as privacy.
The body of an enemy now deceased can be sanitised, pillaged, transformed into a symbolic capital for the reproduction of sovereignty and Hnally in the announcement or reminder of the capacity for the imposition of a generalised state of exception. An emergency confirming the sovereign monopoly on the definition of the real through the abolition of its symbolic legitimisation. The sovereignty, in tears, shouts: you are all private individuals, else you are all potential corpses. And society falls on its knees in awe of its idols and shows remorse: mea culpa; from now on, I will take care of myself only, as long as you safeguard its reproduction. The return to the normalcy of the private is paved with the pectacle of generalized exception.
December 10, 2008, from the occupied Athens School of Economics and Business.
I was in the heart of the catastrophe
Mrs. S.: The retired mother of a longtime anarchist, who typically votes for the conservative party
Are you sure you want to interview me? I think you'll get burned! I’m one of the people who believes in peaceful ways of doing things. It won’t be helpful for this book you’re writing. When I was young I was with the Socialists. We started the very first student movement back in the middle of the ’60s, before the dictatorship. We were jumping on our desks in the classrooms, in the high schools, shouting for freedom and social justice. But when the Socialists came into power it was very disappointing. After the dictatorship people were in the universities, still on their desks, shouting for social justice and equality. And when we won in 1981, we were betrayed. The new government stole the money and nothing changed. We are the betrayed generation. We took the government, but nothing happened. We won, only to lose. I don’t agree with this way of protesting, destroying all the shops. But I’m a child of the '60s. We did it peacefully
But wasn't there a lot of rioting and struggle in the ’60s too?
Okay, there was, there were very big riots. The construction workers would come and gather barrels of stones to throw at the police. But the target was the police and the government, not private shops. I don’t agree with damaging private property.
If we're going to protest like this, let’s just start at home, open our own doors and let them do it here, smash it up and take our things. They just attack the shops because they’re more vulnerable, more accessible, easier to attack, so that’s why they pay the price. If people agree with this destruction, they should take the next step and open their own houses to be destroyed.
I even prefer the silent protests to these destructive ones. If you want to destroy the market, then don't buy things, don’t consume. If you want to do something about the prices or the killing of the animals, don’t eat meat. Try to build a majority and bring all the people into the streets. If everyone came into the streets and stayed for three days, with everyone participating, even if they didn’t do anything the impact would be very strong. They announce days in which no one should buy anything, as a protest, but still people go shopping these days. So the right mentality isn’t there yet.
When the banks got smashed... Ha ha, well, in a way all of us said that it was good what happened to them. They deserved it. But the problem is that this flood of destruction also claimed many small shops, many people’s cars. In the moment of rioting it’s difficult to discriminate. Together with the dry ones, you also burned the fresh ones. That’s a Greek phrase.
As for the asylum in the universities, I don’t think they should get rid of it, but I believe it has to be an asylum for the ideas - for the assemblies and public events for all different ideas, but I don’t believe that if someone kills somebody outside the university they should be able to take refuge in the university to escape and not go to trial. It can’t be an asylum for criminal actions. In ’73, when the students took refuge in the university while they were struggling against the government, they didn’t damage the universities. But now okay in December they didn’t damage the university buildings but in many other cases recently that’s happened, that the university buildings have been damaged by the people taking refuge there.
Of course I think the episode in December was a healthy reaction. I could never say it was wrong for the people to rise up after the police killed Alexis. It was not only healthy it was the obligation of the people to revolt. But I disagree with how they did it. I can’t stand the violence and the destruction. The cause is right. The way they do it, I don't know if it’s right or not. Also I cannot agree if you revolt when one boy like Alexis is killed, but you never revolt when a policeman dies. Me, I cannot discriminate between human beings. A policeman is a worker, he’s not responsible for his actions. People much higher than him are responsible for his actions. In all the different jobs, there are people who are more evil, or aggressive, or arrogant. It’s not only policemen.
I was in Ermou, the street with all the luxury shops near Parliament, early on Sunday morning, just after Alexis was killed. The whole street was still on fire. I couldn't go to Syntagma because everything was closed. The police were saying, "Where are you going, lady?" They wouldn’t let me pass, but I wanted to go to church with my six-year-old granddaughter. There were some major chain stores that were burned in Monastiraki, and the big banks. I wasn’t scared, because most of the fires had almost burned out. Two months later I passed again and I told my granddaughter, "You see, they fixed the bank, its open again." I asked my granddaughter if she remembered and she said, "Yes, it was all burned."
When the police told me I couldn’t pass on this side, they sent me a block down, and I went there and it was full of junkies and illegal immigrants! It was packed! I had to go through this street with my little grandchild to get to the church. It was strange. And I asked the people "What happened, is it okay?" And they told me, "Everything is fine, mother, pass through," and opened the way for me and let me pass. I didn’t know that the riots had started, or what had happened, but I got to church in the end. I was in the heart of the catastrophe, It was very surprising, to see all those luxury stores destroyed that morning.
The first day I saw it with my own eyes, but after that most of what I learned came through the newspapers and the television. Mostly the television tries to produce fear. Through the TV the events become exaggerated. They blow it up like a balloon, and show again and again the same images, and use the same words, and this repetition causes panic. If you don’t have a critical mind it’s easy to get trapped in these feelings and freak out. I personally never allow myself to feel these things. I always understand that the TV exaggerates the situation and blows it out of proportion.
But yes, there were small shops destroyed, it’s not only the TV saying this. On Ermou in addition to all the burned banks and chain stores I also saw one or two shops that were not big shops, they were not chains. One clothing shop that was smashed open and looted. Next time I pass there I’ll go to that shop and find out who it belongs to. And in Syntagma there was an old building that was burned out completely I don’t know what that building was. I want to go tomorrow and find out. I'm curious as to why they burned that one down. It’s normal that they burn the banks and the big stores if they want to hit capitalism, this you can understand. But you can’t understand why they would burn the small shops, and when you see a building that was burned out completely you can’t understand why they chose this target. I guess I can understand the riots and the burnings because it’s part of their fight against capitalism, but when you also have destruction of the universities and small shops and other targets, it’s not clear to the people why it happened.
Do you think it will happen again, or that there will be a revolution?
The death of Alexis was only the spark. The real cause is that the whole society is bubbling. This was just the match in the dynamite store. The episode was caused by the economic and social problems that have been here for years. But if we have to speak about revolution, we speak about a general revolution, one that includes all aspects of life. But for me this is difficult to imagine because the people are alienated, they’re rotten. Because of this, the people who really want a revolution are always a minority. So a general revolution that will include everybody, it can’t happen. I believe that in general the people have found their places, they are volemenos - not comfortable but resigned, subdued, complacent. They are not satisfied, they don’t agree with what is happening, but they have the minimum. And they’ll stay like that instead of risking themselves or getting themselves into trouble. In the past people were more courageous, and when there were popular revolutions people were more heroic and they faced bigger problems, like starvation, or the complete denial of their human rights. So it was easier for them to revolt.
Okay, now we're going to fuck everything up
Little John: An anarchist who has been active for ten years, and is involved with one of Thessaloniki's squatted social centres, Fabrika Yfanet.
It wasn’t a specific squat or group responsible for the insurrection. In Greece there is a specific culture of responding to police aggression. When the police do something really wrong, there is a fast reaction: people attack police stations or other targets. At the end of August, 2007, this guy from Nigeria, Toni Onoya, was in a café selling CDs. He saw some people he recognised as undercover cops so he tried to escape by jumping down from the second floor veranda. The immigrants are always being hunted by the cops. But this time he fell on his head and died. His friends came and they tried to stop the police from taking the body before they could find their own doctor because they believed that police would falsify the autopsy and change the story They called the media, people started to learn what had happened and they converged on the square. At nightfall there were 200 people. The police made another attempt to remove the body and this started the conflict. There was some rioting, and the next day there was a demonstration of immigrants, the Nigerian community students, anarchists, and they all attacked the police station with stones.And that was it. It ended with a demonstration in the centre, some rioting, and about seventeen people arrested. This is how the anarchists here react. When there is police violence, we must respond in a direct way.
A week before the killing of Alexis we had gone to Volos because there had been another killing by police. There we were only one hundred people and we attacked the police station but it didn’t get out of control like it did with Alexis. Somehow that time, maybe because it happened in Exarchia, we all decided, "Okay, now we’re going to fuck everything up."
So we met in the university to see what we were going to do. We didn’t know that in other cities people were doing the same thing. We knew that Athens would explode but we didn’t know it would happen in all the other cities too. Five hundred people gathered in the university and we didn’t talk too much, just decided how we would respond. Some people went out and started setting things on fire. The police weren’t out on the streets, they were protecting the police stations, so we were free to do whatever we wanted. There weren't more than five hundred of us in the streets.
The next day we met at twelve at Kamara, in the centre. There had been no time to make a poster, we just used phones and word of mouth, but there were three thousand people there and we were starting to hear that things had happened in other cities as well.
Monday was the big boom. The high school students were in the streets attacking police stations, demonstrating. In the morning the high school students attacked the central police station for hours. And in the afternoon 10,000 people gathered, and then it was a real insurrection. And this continued for three more days. Until the end of the week there was a demonstration every day Sometimes with fighting, sometimes not. On Wednesday there was a general strike, by coincidence. This is a periodic occurrence in Greece, a one-day strike every three months, and this one happened to fall in this week of insurrection. The government tried to cancel it and the labour unions agreed not to hold a demonstration, but just to gather, play some music, and send everyone home.
The mixture of people in the streets included students, anarchists, people who had connections with political spaces but had not been active, young people, immigrants, and political people from past generations, older people. We could see that communicating through violence and counter-attack was really working. Small communities were organising themselves to attack. They didn’t need us to organise them. You could see small groups of students, fifteen year olds, faces covered, forming affinity groups like anarchists, but with no connections to the anarchists. We only tried to say, "Please when you smash something be sure that it's an appropriate target." This was a very strange role for us. All the banks were destroyed, really gutted, but no one had satisfied their urge for destruction yet, so they went on to the luxury stores. But sometimes the young people could not differentiate and they attacked a few smaller shops, which the media really exaggerated and exploited. Also, the employers used the damages as an excuse to lay off employees but they already needed to cut their workforce. They just blamed us to provide a scapegoat and to divide the people. And no one was in the streets to go shopping for Christmas, because no one had any money - you can really see the effects of the crisis. But they tried to blame that on us too.
At least there weren’t many arrests in Thessaloniki. Mostly younger people who didn’t know how to recognise undercover cops and protect themselves.
I don’t think the anarchist movement spread in December, but its tactics spread. I think that over time, step by step, the anarchist movement in Thessaloniki is growing stronger. After 2003, with the European Union summit protests here, it sped up, then in the last years it’s been moving slower, building steadily through actions, structures, communications. But I couldn’t smell anything in the atmosphere that suggested it was possible for everything in Greece to blow up the very next day. Except for the prison uprisings two years ago, and then the prisoners’ hunger strike in November, But before the 6th of December you couldn't understand that there were powers in society that could react in such an instantaneous and magical way. So it was all related to the anarchist movement, but we call it insurrection because it extended beyond the movement.
Fabrika Yfanet is a huge squatted social centre in the eastern part if Thessaloniki. It used to be a factory, and now serves as a space for shows, political gatherings, and other events. Part of it is a house, and another part holds art spaces, workshops, a library, a bar, a climbing wall, a skate park, and more.
We started with 300 people, and came back with 500
Andreas: A squatter from Thessaloniki
On Saturday we received word of Alexis's death by phone. Five hundred people met in the university at once. In the meeting we shared the information we had, but it didn’t end so well.We couldn’t agree on what to do, and we broke in half. The smaller half stayed around the university for hit and run fighting, and the larger half marched down Egnatia, the main street of Thessaloniki, to smash all the banks and luxury shops. I was in this second group. There were also small groups of friends all over the city hitting specific targets-banks, police stations, et cetera. But this strategy, or lack of strategy worked quite well, because the police had to divide their forces and they didn’t know what to expect. A lot were near the university fighting with the students there and defending the construction site for the new metro, so on Egnatia we didn’t find any cops. We had the streets to ourselves.
Another thing: we started with 300 people, setting out from Kamara, and we came back with 500. Because people on the streets were joining us. They weren’t afraid because we were doing it calmly Yes, we were angry we were very pissed off about the death of Alexis, but we kept ourselves under control. The banks had to be smashed, so we smashed them, but we did it calmly One window, CRASH, next window, CRASH, here’s someone who is afraid, okay come over here, we'll move them out of the way and then we get the next window. So no one had reason to be afraid of us, they sympathised with what we were doing and felt they could join us, so they joined us. Just normal people on the streets.
In some countries there is a critique of nonviolence. In Greece there is a critique of violence. But it’s a very black and white issue. Everyone understands it is a part of the struggle, but some don’t like it and others love it. There’s no middle position. If you tell people you’re in the middle they get confused. But I’m in the gray area. I think it’s necessary to be careful with the violence. I don’t say not to use it, of course you have to use it, but do it calmly without losing control. You have to be calm. And you can do it this way at any level, no matter what degree of violence you're using.
Because we were calm people joined us on Saturday night and we came back with more people. We walked down Egnatia, attacked the police station with a variety of ammunitions, you know, and then we returned by the same street, smashing the shops a second time.
On the first day we didn’t really understand what was happening. After the second day students were everywhere, setting dumpsters on fire, attacking capitalist targets. They just came from everywhere and started doing it on their own.I see two explanations for this: one is that they were doing what they saw on the television. The other is that they have a subconscious hatred for the mechanisms that were destroying their lives.
The media were so dramatic in how they covered the riots, I think it’s one of the reasons people started joining a few days later. But by the fourth or fifth day, the national media realised they were destabilising the situation, and they tried to censor their coverage. They didn’t show any more arsons, they didn’t show masses of people fighting with police, and they prohibited the phrase "student riots." But the foreign media were more honest, and they were very interested in the riots, so after that Greece got all its coverage of the riots from the international channels. By coincidence there had been this conference in Athens about the role of the media in democracy so all the international press was already in the country when the fighting started. The media were confused because they couldn’t understand the general feeling and they really messed it up.
After the students came the hooligans, and after the hooligans came the immigrants, and after the immigrants every exploited person came out on the streets. You could see yuppies with ties burning banks and grandmas and grandpas attacking the police for gassing the children.
During these days there were six or seven major demonstrations, really big ones. The first contained about 3,000 people. Each of these demos destroyed a different part of the city. And all this time, there were small groups hitting the banks and attacking the police stations again and again. This is no exaggeration - at five o’clock if there was an attack on a police station, there would be another attack, by another group of people, at four past five. The cops were terrified, shouting, almost crying on their radios, yelling for backup, thinking they were going to be burned to death.
I have to tell you, the theatre school occupation was very important. On the second day, Alpha Kappa squatted the theatre school and then they left so the students of that school could assume the occupation--they reoccupied it together. This became a central point. There were really diverse opinions expressed there, from the radical Left to the blackest of the black.
Another building, the office of the lawyers guild, was occupied by leftists and anarchists but after the media started turning public opinion against the uprising the leftists abandoned it. So this theatre school was very central. Many decisions were made there for the movement as a whole. If they called a protest for a certain day and hour, it happened. But sometimes this was problematic.
There are lots of conflicts in the movement. Some of the major conflicts are with anti-authoritarian Movement, Alpha Kappa. First of all I think it’s a bad translation. It shouldn’t be Anti-authoritarian Movement but Anti-authoritarian Current. Because this word, kinisi, it doesn’t mean like a political movement, but a flow or a current. And the anti-authoritarian movement in Greece is much bigger than Alpha Kappa. Because of the way they act they can collaborate with the leftists but there aren’t many anarchists who will work with them. They make media statements, give interviews, talk with the journalists in the spotlight, you know, things no anarchists would do. They often take postures that belong to the Left, not to anarchists. And in December they made a declaration, saying that the people who loot are not anarchists. The looters are not anarchists. It's unbelievable.
But I’m talking mostly about Alpha Kappa in Athens. In each city they’re a little different and there are bigger problems with the group in Athens. In Thessaloniki they’re not like this. They’re comrades. We have to remember that in December we were in the streets together with Alpha Kappa. We forgot about our separations and we moved together, we mixed, we weren’t in separate blocs. Everyone rallied around the anti-authoritarian movement. I don’t only speak about anarchists but also about leftists and autonomia.
That's how big this thing was
Anna: A student on Samos, a medium-sized island close to Turkey
After the killing of Alexis there was a demonstration in the city on the other side of the island. And all the students at my school, kids who wouldn’t even get off their Playstations long enough to go down to the beach, went forty kilometres, all the way to the other side of the island to take part in that protest. That’s how big this thing was. It brought the kids out of their bubbles, because we could feel it was important.
In Patras, 1000 people came out to the demonstrations
Yiannis: An anarchist from Patras
In Patras, in December, there were many demonstrations and riots, It wasn’t as big as in Athens, but it was big, In the demonstrations there were maybe 1,000 people, and here in Patras there are maybe 2-300,000 people. The major thing wasn’t rioting, though. We would make a demonstration and then in the evenings go and talk to the people, have discussions, give out flyers.
Because the port is here, there are many immigrants in Patras - in recent years, mostly from Afghanistan. We are friends with some of them, and they came to the demonstration. They don’t have a word for anarchism, and they grow up in a society that teaches them very strongly to accept God and the State, to accept authority. But our common ground was our opposition to the police. One of these friends had no papers, he had been here for a year, and if he were arrested it would be very bad. But when the demonstration came a block away from the police station, he went with those who threw rocks at the police, I kept taking him by the arm and leading him away saying "leave this for the other people to do," and he kept going back to throw more rocks.
Before the demonstrations we would have a meeting and decide, for example, that we would smash all the banks we passed, but if anyone went to smash a store, we would stop them. However, the media were saying all sorts of things - that we were smashing stores, that we were attacking people. It was crazy.
On Tuesday so the third day of riots, the fascists attacked us. They were behind the police lines, protected by the police, they gathered all the stones that we had thrown, and then they attacked us. Fortunately no one was injured. But later that day they went around the streets hunting and attacking immigrants. They had knives. I don’t know how many were injured. They grabbed this friend of ours also, but fortunately he got away. And they also smashed up the offices of Alpha Kappa.
That was the craziest moment of all December for me
Vortex: A person from Athens who was already involved in the movement when the rebellion started
We organised assemblies but no one needed them. Within an hour of the shooting people had already started smashing things. When I went out around 11:30, two hours after Alexis’s murder, the fights had already started. On Akadimias I saw people coming from every direction. Since it was clear that there would be many people on the street I thought that we should create as many fronts as possible. My idea was that if different groups of people would be causing trouble throughout the centre, smashing shops and then fighting the police when they came, we should start blocking the roads with dumpsters and so forth. But it became obvious that the leftists had a very different perspective. Around 12:30 that night, my little group of four people was on Akadimias, which is a big avenue, trying to block it with dumpsters and big tubes from a nearby construction site. And these various leftist groups come marching by from different streets. On our right there’s this one leftist bloc marching away. Another group of leftists starts coming towards us, but they see what we’re doing and they decided to go another way I started shouting at them not to go because four of us couldn’t hold a barricade on a central avenue. And then there was this one crazy guy who had decided to start smashing a bank all by himself.
I shouted at the leftists, "Where the fuck are you going?" They had gotten it in their heads that they were going to march and start a demo. But there was no demo, it was already kicking off. You’re not asking for something, it's not a matter of making demands, so you don't walk around the city like it’s a protest, you fucking start doing it! So I was shouting at them not to leave, but they had made up their minds to go to Omonia. But there was no protest at Omonia, I knew that the shit had already started there. So I ran up to this other group of leftists and told them we’re closing down the avenue, come help us. I knew they were leftists but I thought they might have some different tactics. These guys all had their megaphones, shouting at each other what to do. “Comrades, we’re going this way!" And they yelled at their herds not to listen to me and they left.
Since there were only four or five of us in the middle of a central avenue, we left. We went down Solonos Street, and there I had the idea that if we don’t flip a car now then when are we going to do it? But my friends refused so we continued.
What impressed me on Sunday and Monday was that the people, especially the anarchists, were very well prepared.They had gas masks, helmets, and some of them had even attached these pillows to their arms so they could block the police clubs without breaking their arms.
The interesting thing during these days was that you didn’t have the feeling that you could only do things if you had your friends around. You could do it by yourself. In Omonia I was in a luxury clothing store by myself. There were 300 leftists around me just watching, but I felt very confident. You knew that things were happening everywhere so you weren’t alone even if you couldn’t see them. It was a strange sort of confidence. It was the moment we were all waiting for all these years.
In the fights in the streets we all worked like one collective brain connected in a mysterious way. Somehow you knew what your comrades needed to back them up. The police couldn’t cope with it. They are a mechanism that works only with orders, with central decision-making. But with us, ten of us would go forward at the same time, ten of us would go back at the same time.
By Monday night they were throwing this strange tear gas that made a terrible sound, very loud. And it would affect hundreds of people within an area of many blocks. People would be blinded, they couldn’t breathe. It was much stronger than normal tear gas. With normal tear gas, you have a few seconds to run away and a block later you’re alright. If you weren’t wearing a gas mask you’d have to pull back for a few minutes, and that was all. This new tear gas was much worse. But we set so many fires it burned off the tear gas. This was one of the reasons to set the fires, to protect ourselves.
On Monday night at one point I circled around behind the cops, and I saw this big motorbike pull up with two guys carrying a big backpack. They started pulling tear gas canisters out of the backpack and distributing it to the riot cops, who had run out. Evidently they had called in to headquarters and these two undercovers were going around with resupplies. They left very fast.
A lot of people went to work with sledgehammers to smash windows and also to smash up the pavement into rocks for throwing. Monday afternoon there were many different teams of people who had come to create chaos. The difference between Monday’s protest and a regular demo is that no one had to wait for the right time to attack. Just two blocks from Panepistimio, the starting point, people already started smashing things. There were teams of four or five people, and every team would have some tool for breaking the glass and something for setting fires. Some people hadn’t even had the time to make molotovs, they just brought big plastic jugs of gasoline. People acted in a spontaneous way, but I imagine each team also had their certain tactics. These had to do more with how to care for each other and look out for each other and back each other up,because this time it wasn’t a matter of selecting targets. You would pretty much burn anything that didn’t look like a small shop.
I flipped my first car, that was a great joy. About seven or eight of us flipped a big jeep, quite an expensive car. Seven to turn it upside down and another to throw the molotov and that’s it. And barricades everywhere. Of course you know that when you put a garbage can in the middle of the street you also light it, because even if there’s no tear gas now, it will come so you’d better be prepared.
On Monday there were two hits on Kolonaki. I had this idea in the morning, before the demo. We’d already had two days of fighting with the police so I thought the evening demo would be very dangerous for us. Perhaps it would be a trap, with the police arresting everyone. It never happened like that. But my idea was that instead of going to the demo, we should make a team of about 100 people and go to Kolonaki and smash everything while the demo was starting - because I thought that all the police would be there and they’d definitely want to fuck us. But some people had already arranged that, and they had arranged it for a few hours earlier. I was lucky because I found this friend of mine, told him my plan, and he said “You know what, we’re going for it in fifteen minutes, so if you want to come...” I said, “Okay, let’s go, I’m coming."
It was fucking scary for a person sitting outside, watching about fifty people all of the sudden putting on their gloves and masks. It was a light attack, though, a few luxury shops were smashed and some luxury cars were burned. But the same night, the same street got hit again by a different group of people. And whereas the first group smashed four blocks on this street, the second group smashed the whole street. We heard that it was happening while we were at Nomiki throwing rocks at the cops, and we started running. There were some immigrants with us without masks. They weren’t speaking at all, they were just breaking. And we caught up with them and participated in what was left, also going into the shops to smash more things. Some people were looting as well but I was not interested in that.
The luxury street was empty because half the city was already burned down, and at that moment there was fierce fighting with the police around the universities. So there were no police, no traffic, nothing. It was really fun to see people just running along the roofs of these luxury cars, smashing them from the top, doing whatever they wanted.
At one point on Monday we had left Nomiki because the police were surrounding it. We left the areas where there was more tear gas, went to a kiosk to get a beer, and we’re coming back, passing Kolonaki. And there we saw this group of school kids wearing masks. About four or five boys, and two or three girls. None of them older than 18, wearing trendy clothes; they looked like emo kids. They’re just walking down the street with masks like it’s perfectly normal. And all of a sudden they started smashing shops. They didn’t have tools with them, they just picked up whatever they could find and started smashing, as they were calmly talking with each other, joking around, having fun, you know? It was like a company of friends who had gone out for a drink and they were just having fun. That’s how comfortable they felt there, how safe, at that moment. It was magical to see.
And then my friend shouts at them, “Hey, don’t leave that bank." And they look at the bank, which they hadn’t smashed, and looked to each other and said,"Yeah, he’s right." So they found this big piece of wood, all of them together, they rammed it against the door of the bank, and the fucking thing just collapsed. It didn’t break, it didn’t shatter, it just fell inwards and all the bank alarms started going off.
So we decided to simply follow them and see how they were experiencing it because it was magical. They smashed a few more shops after the bank and they reached Kolonaki Square. It was just a few of them but they were acting like they were in a playground, the girls walking arm in arm, all of them smashing things on their own. And all of a sudden a police car passes. And just one of them alone starts shouting "batsi!" (cops!), like he was challenging them to get out of the car, and he grabs a rock. One of them alone started chasing the police car, the cop stepped on the gas and got out of there and the guy threw the rock. And after this they didn’t even leave the scene, they just sat there in the square, talking, like nothing was happening. They were ignoring us, just sitting there. For me it was a moment of truth, to see that situation, because they weren’t afraid of the all powerful law. And they had taken their masks off, put them back on, they were playing with them. This was the most luxurious square in the centre of Athens. And we’re watching with our mouths open.
At one point one of these guys had gone down a street where you could see the group of police stationed outside the presidential house. And he starts yelling at them, insulting them, "Suck my dick you fucking cops!" Imagine a cop who is there listening to the radio about how the centre of Athens is burning, but Kolonaki seems calm when all of a sudden this kid with a mask appears from the most luxurious square in the city to just taunt him, alone, without fear. That was the craziest moment for me in all of December.
If I had to summarise it in one sentence: perhaps we don't know how, but we can do it.
This is the spirit of the revolt
Pavlos and Irina: Two anarchists who were in the Polytechnic occupation
I heard about the shooting of Alexis from a friend, over the phone. This was already several hours later, at one in the morning. I went there as soon as I got the call, but the events had already begun. When I got to Exarchia, the streets were full of fires. People had occupied the Polytechnic after having a small assembly there and deciding to take it over. At this time, 1:30, 2:00, the cops tried to surround the campus to prevent people from gathering there. People from Exarchia Square and more people from Patision, from Omonia, were trying to approach the Polytechnic so there were fights between the riot police and the people, in Exarchia and on Patision Avenue.
From the moment of the assassination, people in that area started to take action. There was an announcement for a meeting in the Polytechnic half an hour after the murder. At the same time people were gathering at the spot where the shooting took place. Significantly the struggle did not begin from an organised initiative, but spontaneously as a natural expansion of the event.
Some leftists were gathering on Akademias Avenue, while people were fighting at and around the Polytechnic. Some hours after midnight, a big group of anarchists, 100-200 people, not a specific political group, but an ad hoc gathering, walked to another neighbourhood one or two kilometres away a commercial district, an area with night life, and they attacked many big shops. There were buildings that were completely burned out. This same group also attacked one or two police stations while travelling around the city. This was the first counter-attack, the first initiative of people going on the offensive.
These first reactions were vital in lending a defining character to everything that came afterwards. The first reactions determine what happens next. This is why what happened in Exarchia is so crucial. From the first moment, people gathered. In the first hour a large group of people occupied the Polytechnic. And this initiative, this counter-attack, gave a specific character to all the subsequent reactions.
The cops who were stationed in Exarchia were attacked. It’s something that has happened before as a spontaneous response to police aggressions, or as a planned attack. It has happened frequently In the past loose gatherings of young people would meet and decide, let’s go, tomorrow night, and attack the cops at this location. It was done fluidly not by formal organisation. It’s a field of exercise. This is important.
People already had all this experience. Not only the experience of organisation or political discussion but also the experience of fighting in the streets. This is one of the features that enabled our successes in December.
I don’t remember at what hour but at one point the cops disappeared from around the Polytechnic and all the people could come gather there. And this happened because all night more and more people were coming down into the street to fight with police. The fighting continued all night. That first night provides us a vantage point from which we can look at the rest of the insurrection. First of all I only use the word insurrection to express what period we're talking about, in December. My opinion is that we cannot determine the insurrectional when it happens, according to rules or standards.We cannot measure it. That’s a sociological discussion, to demarcate when the insurrection begins and ends. It didn’t begin on December 6, the insurrection was always here. In every individual or every group of people that reacted against the State and authority. What happened on December 6 in Athens and later in all of Greece and across the world was the meeting of all the insurrections, all the revolts, that could meet at this time. I don’t want to see history from a sociological point of view, "Now we have many people so it is an insurrection, now they are no longer in the streets so it ended." It’s not like this. With such a perspective you cannot see what is under the events, you cannot explain how it came to light and how it continues, if you see history only as numbers.And this explains how in some hours thousands of people gathered in the centre of town fighting with the police. It was because the fire was already lit. The inner motive was already there. It’s like a bomb. A single event that meant something to masses of people was the fuse to ignite a social power that had already been smouldering, invisibly This explains how thousands of people met, gathered in a few hours, and could continue fighting for days, and why this expanded to other places.
December 6 wasn’t the first time that a cop killed a civilian. They do it often. What made the difference, what gave a specific meaning to this event from the first moment, was that it was an attack, a straight attack. The cop car passed the area where young people were hanging out, drinking beers, discussing. And this is a place where young people and anarchists pass their time, a pedestrian street. When the cops drove by, someone insulted them, shouted something. Perhaps they threw a plastic bottle of water, I'm not sure. The cops drove on,they parked the car two blocks away where there was a bus of riot police, which is normally stationed there. They parked the car in a safe place and they came back on foot. They both took out their guns, and one of them aimed it at the group of young people, and shot two or three times. The first important feature of the event is that it was a blatant attack by the police; no one can talk about an accident. Always when they kill someone they call it an accident.
Secondly it was in a neighbourhood that is in a way liberated from the police. Not totally, but they don’t do what they want in Exarchia, they don’t pass easily And that’s why they first parked the car somewhere out of this zone. Let’s say there was a mental border, a not safe place, a stateless zone, and outside of this border there is state security This mental scheme is understood by everybody It was a social accomplishment in everybody’s minds, even the enemy recognised it. From time to time in the newspapers, in the Sunday editions where they run articles with political analysis, terrorism, or anarchists, there were articles about the avaton of Exarchia. Traditionally this word was only used for the holy mountain of Khalkidiki, which is a mountain where only monks can go. It has boundaries, it’s like another country. Avaton is a place where you cannot step. And the State was using this word for Exarchia. In fact some journalists on the first night or the next day were saying that this assassination provided an opportunity to discuss the problem of the avaton of Exarchia.
They are stupid, they couldn’t understand the meaning of the event and what the consequences would be. They were talking a bunch of hot air because they couldn’t yet understand what would happen. Starting the very next day everybody was selling tears, capitalising on the grief of the assassination. Up to the president. There were some journalists saying this bullshit but the rest of the State understood how serious the situation was and everybody was trying to erase the meaning, to lower the value of the event, pretending to sympathise, because Alexis was young. And the fact that he was a young student was important because from the first moment it concerned all the youth, all the students.
After the first assembly in the Polytechnic some people left and went to start another occupation, at the ASOEE, joined by other people who weren’t at Polytechnic. They did it for a political reason. They did not want to be near a chaotic situation which they couldn’t control. There were also people who believed it would be better to have more occupations than one, more centres, more bases for the struggle, it’s true, and some people went to ASOEE because the police pre- vented them from entering the Polytechnic at that moment so they went to another occupation. The fact that we had more than one occupation functioned as a factor of power, it was more difficult to attack more places. It also allowed a greater diversity of people to participate, since there were different occupations with different ways of doing things.
From the first day we were among the people in the Polytechnic who had the opinion that all the occupations must continue. That we have to keep more buildings, different bases. I’m not sure if it was the same night or the next day when there was also a third occupation at Nomiki, carried out by people of the Left and Alpha Kappa, the Anti-authoritarian Current. They have good relations with the leftists and bad relations with most of the rest of the anarchist movement. During the first night everybody was mixed, but after some hours people began to separate and clarify their political character. Some people left the Polytechnic because they did not want to be together with an uncontrolled crowd. They preferred to be in an area where they could subject all actions to a general discussion. It’s not that they didn’t want direct action or a violent fight, but they wanted to do it in the way they were already familiar with.
So I know that my criticism is a little hard, but I think it’s true. The occupation of ASOEE had more of a Party character, not in an institutional way but symbolically, and in its ideological purity But also I use the word Party because this strategy divided them from the uncontrolled crowds that were fighting, destroying anything in the streets. The ASOEE group participated in the marches, in many events, they also did actions by themselves, I don’t say that it was a bureaucratic group, and as I said before my opinion was that all the occupations must continue, they all were important. So in the ASOEE occupation there were many discussions but among people who already knew one another, like a big family you could say discussing different subjects. And of course the cohesion that they had between them was an advantage for many actions. They intervened in the lighting in the streets, they made attacks in the metro.
On the other hand, those of us who stayed in the Polytechnic, from the first moment, were there not because we dropped in accidentally but because we believed that we had to stay there, to keep this occupation, for many reasons. Some of these reasons are related to the beginning of the insurrection. The Polytechnic as a place was an important factor in the insurrection. For example the people who attacked the commercial district, they started from the Polytechnic. Many of them didn’t participate later in the Polytechnic, some of them went to ASOEE, it doesn’t matter. They started from the Polytechnic because the Polytechnic has a historical value. Not like a monument, but a living meaning. It’s still the base, the centre, of serious struggles, and a place of organisational processes, like assemblies. This meaning comes from the insurrection of ’73 before the end of the dictatorship.
Because of this living historical value, the living meaning of Polytecnio, we had to be there, we had to keep this place. The Polytechnic is a point on the map of social consciousness that is related with insurrection. That’s why not only the first night but all the first week and the days after thousands of people passed through there to fight. Many more than the number of people who stayed in the occupation. We were only a few dozen staying there, keeping the occupation running, just a few people next to the huge masses who participated in the events. In the assemblies there were some hundreds of people who didn’t sleep there, didn’t stay in the buildings, and during the nights, in the fighting outside the Polytechnic, there were thousands of people. And of course not only anarchists.
Regardless of the meaning of the place and the historical value of the Polytechnic, and because of that meaning, it was the gathering point for many different people, many who had never worked together or met until that moment, and they met there for a common reason: insurrection. To fight against the State. The campus and the streets around it were also the specific place designated for fighting, for violence against the police and the State. The common idea was that this was our place. The place where we do what we want. You could see so many different people in the occupation and in the lights in the surrounding streets. You could see immigrants from any race or country blacks, Eastern Europeans, anybody. You could see high school students, lumpen proletariat - people who live on the streets, junkies, hooligans, gypsies. And all ages were there.You could see all ages from the first night, the first hours, all the generations of anarchists, all the generations that had lived through struggles in the past and now gathered in the streets.You could see people who had left the struggle years ago. But they came out again this night. And the place of this mixture was the Polytechnic.
What other anarchists didn’t like was the melting pot, the mixing with people from other cultures that are not very familiar or welcoming to us.And they didn’t like the blurring of actions, including many actions that they didn’t accept or that didn’t fit their view of insurrection. This fact was one of the reasons that we wanted to be there. Because we don’t understand the insurrection as an expression of the process of our ideas or a clear manifestation of anarchist organisations in society, but as a social explosion, as the expression of the needs of people who are repressed, exploited, tortured. And our work until this moment was and should be to provoke this moment, to provoke this meeting, this melting. We keep our thinking, we keep our way of organising, our characteristics, our way to organise our own fight, but we have to be there and to mix with all the others. This is our role, to support this, to push this. So we can say that the occupation of the Polytechnic was the most proletarian of all the occupations. It wasn’t restricted to anarchists but the way of doing things and the general strategy the way of thinking in the assemblies, was anarchist.
And that’s why in the pamphlets from the Polytechnic occupation and in the poster we made you could find the clearest reference to class struggle, to a counter-attack by the lower class. lt was not an exclusively anarchist view of the event, on what is the State, what is the insurrection, but our discourse was very clear in announcing that the counter-attack of our class begins now. From the first paper we printed, we were talking about all the people assassinated in the past, naming them, remembering them, referring also to the armed guerrillas that were killed in fights, because we are not into victimisation. We said that these days of struggle were for all of them as well as for Alexis. We will take revenge for all of them. And for all of us.
On the first night, many shops on Stournari Street were smashed open. Some were looted, others were burned. Stournari is the street that goes from Exarchia Square, past the Polytechnic, to Patision. Cops were on the corner of Patision and Stournari, and higher up on Stournari, to keep people from convening in the Polytechnic. They were also behind the campus, where there is always a police bus guarding the Ministry of Culture. Normally the police attack Polytechnic from Kanigos Square and this night they did so again to try to cut off Stournari. But the cops were defeated in the street, and the shops were destroyed - all the big shops and some smaller ones, but most of the little shops were not touched. The biggest computer shop in this street and one of the biggest in all Greece was smashed open and burned completely. Many floors, a tall building, all burned. And it was burning slowly so the arson was well done. I think it is not usable now I think they will have to demolish it. This particular building was burned on purpose because this company was part of a consortium that wanted to build a technological park, like Silicon Valley on a mountain near Athens, in a place where there is forest now.
The next morning Stournari and all the smaller side streets were a surrealistic place, a magical and unimaginable scene.You couldn’t picture it if you hadn’t seen it. The whole street covered with stones, pieces of metal, anything that could be thrown. Burnt cars. Cars flipped over. Smoke. It was like a moonscape. Very quiet, that morning. Only a few people passing by to see the scene or take photos. But you didn’t see anyone going to work, no one went to open their shops. It was like time stopped there. The feeling was great. Tranquillity. It was like this the first morning, and all the mornings of the first week. People were passing by going into the occupation or coming out. Like it was our place, it was free. A specific political and military situation, a balance of power, in which one neighbourhood, one street, was liberated. It was ours. For days. It was a place of no control. It’s not like the police came to write up the damages. For one week, there was no State there. In the rest of the city the police were on the streets, but only in big groups, in defensive formation, or they were hiding. But here it was ours. And just one and a half blocks away there was a bus of riot police guarding a ministry building. They never left their post. They were attacked many times, with a variety of methods, but they didn’t budge. Very surreal.
Next day Sunday was the first march. It started near Polytecnio and went towards the police headquarters, at Leoforos Alexandras, not too far, but away from the centre. This march contained many people, and much energy It was an unstoppable attack, from the first moment. l\/[any people started destroying all the symbols of capitalism. They were burning corporate offices, supermarkets, banks, car dealerships, for example Ford was burned totally. And the cops were not there at first, they were waiting near their headquarters. As soon as the people saw the cops on Leoforos Alexandras guarding the headquarters, they attacked. But the cops managed to break the march and push it back, and there was continuous conflict. The people didn’t scatter, but they were steadily pushed back. At this point the police were trying to disperse people, not to make arrests. They used incredible amounts of tear gas. Sunday’s march was the first mass outlet of destruction in the city. Some leftists and Left parties called the Sunday march, I think also with Alpha Kappa. But everybody went there. People from all the occupations, anarchists generally. The people from the political parties were not in control, they did very little.
Sunday night, after the protest march, thousands more came to the Polytechnic to fight with police, thousands of people. This happened from Saturday to Wednesday but Sunday night was the night of the rage outside the Polytechnic. The people were uncontrollable. You cannot describe it with words, the rage that was expressed there. Against the cops and against anything that symbolised authority It was pure rage. When I went out from the university into the street on Sunday night, I saw a large group of people in front of one of the computer shops throwing anything they could find, along with dozens, maybe hundreds of molotovs, into the same shop. For a long time. It didn’t follow any plan, it was just uncontrolled rage. And then they went to find the police at Kanigos Square. In Kanigos there is also a ministry building so you could always be sure to find cops there. These nights we went out from the occupation to go fight, but we didn’t have to do anything because everything was done, it was done by others. Fighting and rioting was not the exclusive specialty of the anarchists.
Many people, anarchists and others, were coming from other countries to experience the insurrection. There was a hooligan from Poland who heard the news and on the second day he took a plane to Athens, came to the Polytechnic, and he stayed there until the last clay of the occupation. It wasn’t only a political familiarity that attracted the people, it was the mind of the insurrection, the common potential of every exploited person. On Monday there were events in the whole country. Even in the little islands far to the east, near Turkey the students made attacks on the police stations. And also in an area in the northwest of Athens where many gypsies live, on the second day they participated in the insurrection. They didn’t come down to the centre but gathered in their own area and burned a bank, looted a big store, and attacked the local police station. They set fire to a stolen truck, jammed down the gas pedal, and drove it into the front door. Then they shot the building up with hunting rifles. It’s a hard place, there are bad relations between the cops and the gypsies. They also have lost people to police assassinations in the past.
Next day Monday the minister of education decided to close the schools and universities so that the students could not gather. They had estimated that they would have a problem with the students mobilising, and they thought they could stop them like this. But on Monday morning the students swarmed around their closed schools and started carrying out actions spontaneously everywhere. Everywhere in Athens and throughout the entire country. You could hear about students who were blocking streets, making protest marches, others who were attacking police stations with stones. And we’re talking about people who didn’t have any contact with us and who hadn't been in the centre of Athens the previous two nights. These were random people all over the country who gathered and did things. It seemed like the entire student body of some schools were coming down to the Polytechnic. On Monday morning I went to Patision Avenue with some other friends, some comrades, to distribute pamphlets. It was the first pamphlet that was written in the Polytechnic occupation. Students were arriving in groups thinking that the Polytechnic was the place to gather and find out how to get involved. They asked us what we would do and when, and where.
I will add a personal experience to illustrate the atmosphere there. At one point a march arrives, with a large mass of students. They had come from many kilometres away not a very poor neighbourhood either, but middle class and upper middle class. And when they arrived at Patision outside the historical door of the Polytechnic, where the tanks attacked in ’73, they blocked the avenue without asking us what to do. And they started shouting the common slogan, "Batsi, gourounya, dolofoni!" Cops, pigs, killers! Watching this scene, I became ecstatic. And I understood at this moment that the thing now has departed. It has gone beyond us. I don’t say it surpassed us. Many people use this word, but I don’t believe this. Maybe it surpassed them because they didn’t believe this could happen, but the insurrection surpassed this way of thinking. I am one of those people who was sure that insurrections will happen, and soon. And I am one of the people who believe that revolution also will happen.
So when the insurrection came here, it wasn’t a surprise. The moment changes you, every experience in this situation becomes a new part of you. But it’s not unexpected. It’s what you expected but you’ve just never seen it before and now here it is in front of you, all around you. And in this moment, in front of this scene, I was ecstatic, thinking that these are our people. It’s not only our small circle of comrades. Now that which is hidden in everybody every single person, will be expressed. It was in this moment that I understood that now the event goes forward. It’s free to advance, it can’t be stopped now.
Monday afternoon was the first march in the centre of town. Everyone was there. It was the biggest march of the week. And it was this afternoon that the centre of Athens was burned.
From the first moment, people started attacking. Burning buildings, central banks, state buildings, big shops, chain stores, department stores.And looting. Below Omonia Square, let’s say Omonia is the border between the high city and the low city where normal society meets the underclasses. Immigrants, junkies, homeless people, they always gather below Omonia. When the destruction began, it spread through Omonia Square, and many people who weren’t in the march started to destroy and to loot. Many of the people arrested this day a big percentage of the total arrests, were immigrants from this situation. When the riot police came there, they found dozens of people inside the shops. They were hanging out, choosing things, not just breaking, burning, and running,
like we were.
The attacks of the Monday protest spread beyond the march, destroying the bordering areas. One friend went to Kolonaki Square after the march, and he saw a group of young people, ten people hooded and masked, in the richest square of town, smashing shops. My friends continued to Skoufa Street, that goes from Kolonaki Square to Exarchia, and here they found another group, students, coming up towards Kolonaki, and these two groups joined and started to smash all the shops on the street. This also shows how the insurrection works. Many people, including anarchists, have a mechanical way of understanding how things work. They cannot understand how the State cannot control certain situations, why the State cannot repress Greek anarchists, why they cannot stop violence in the marches. Many anarchists understand the State as something that can only increase its power. The insurrection of December demonstrates how this mechanical understanding is not real, it’s not valid. It’s only the projection of the State’s own mentality. A mentality concentrated on control, the idea that everything can be controlled. It’s a reality that many of us accept. Me too. I opposed this way of thinking, yet I also had a view of a strategy planned in advance, a prepared way to begin the insurrection.
But in the insurrection of December I saw how a plural subject can be more clever than any individual subject. When we are in a situation that involves many minds working together, in the midst of action, the group is more intelligent, more fluid. The insurrection of December is evidence of the intelligence of anarchy. On Monday afternoon in particular we did not have any plan or single strategy but precisely because of this the State and the cops could not control us. The situation was too chaotic for them. They cannot stop an enemy that is everywhere or anywhere. They cannot stop an enemy that doesn’t have a single objective. When they attack in one area, they lose another area.
In the fights outside the Polytechnic, I saw how a thousand people or fifty people could attack the riot police, working as a single body We could fight without having an organisation, a structure, prepared before the action, because all of the participants could understand the fight and the moment from a holistic point of view a point of view centred in the group. The group existed not because before we had an assembly but because everyone at that moment understood himself as a part of a group. And it is more effective than their model because in our model everyone simultaneously has a vision of the entire situation and everyone feels the responsibility to take any initiative he can take to support the common objective.
On the third night, Monday night, thousands of people, mostly students, came to the Polytechnic after the march. You could see people as young as 12 years old, breaking, destroying, throwing stones. All the generations were there. This night at the university saw the greatest participation in the riots and the character of the conflict was visibly a little bit different than the nights before. Sunday night was the rage, but on Monday night... you could see a spirit of collectivity. There were many students but also immigrants and anarchists and junkies and others, all of us thinking collectively There were groups coming into the Polytechnic to rest, others going out to fight, a continuous chain.A large group of people, many of them girls, were inside the Polytechnic breaking the masonry to make stones, collecting things to throw. They were working like a factory but nobody told them what to do. They were like the ants of revolution. We didn’t have to do anything, our group that was keeping the occupation running. We were at the doors just checking that nobody got caught, nobody got left alone. Or we would throw the gas canisters back at the police.
In these events, there was a generation who educated themselves, who passed through a rite of passage. This is a generation that will be in the streets for the next ten, twenty years. I believe that. It’s a very powerful experience for a young person, if this was your first experience in the streets. It’s not so easy afterwards to go back to normality Once again we see the importance of the occupation of the Polytechnic. It was an opportunity for all these people to gather and fight in the streets.
One of the occupations, that of the central building of the General Confederation of Greek Workers, happened during the second week. It was started by some comrades who were already organising base unions. They weren’t explicitly anarchist unions, but anti-authoritarian workers unions. Some of these comrades had also been in the occupation of the Polytechnic. Their approach was to emphasise a class analysis, but not as a formulation of economic demands or a discourse focused strictly on work. They were representing themselves as workers in revolt, talking about the insurrection, the prisoners. They wanted to mobilise working people but inside the insurrection. Not in a divided program, in a limited struggle for solely economic demands. The truth is that this effort didn’t achieve the mobilisation of many workers, or the creation of mass events, but they provided a basis for some struggles that are beginning now, directed at problems of work but seizing the spirit of the insurrection. Konstantina Kuneva participated in the assemblies of this occupation, before she was attacked. When she went with her union to ask for solidarity from the General Confederation and to spread their text about the brutality of their bosses, the General Confederation asked them to denounce the occupation. And of course Kuneva and her union refused.
Afterwards they occupied the central offices of the railway which contracts the private companies that employ the cleaners represented by Kuneva's union. And her union refused to cooperate with the Communist Party union or any other party. They were protesting with us, with the people who supported the insurrection, anarchists and the base unions. Another Left party offered Kuneva a spot on the list of candidates for the European Parliament and she refused that too. And in the workers’ marches there were also violent conflicts, attacks on banks, fights with the police. The insurrection provided a basis for bringing anarchists, anti-authoritarians, and autonomists, closer together with working people who are ready to fight.
As the days passed, violent events continued, but they were not as massive as before. In Exarchia and the Polytechnic, people continued to carry out violent struggle. One week after the assassination there was a meeting right on the spot where he was killed. All the anarchists went there, and we started fighting the cops. There was an attack on a police bus and the police station of Exarchia, and then the fighting went on all night around the Polytechnic. Some anarchists in the university occupation, we believed that we should take the initiative to call for a major march. Until then none of the marches had been called by the anarchist occupations. And we believed that we should call a central march, as the occupation of the Polytechnic, to send a political message against the State but also to society, of what we are and what we want. That the insurrection is not only anger, but also a political objective.We did not want to represent the insurrection but to give a clear political stance of one major group that was participating in the insurrection and that supported its goals and proposals. But we encountered resistance from many comrades in the occupation and outside of it. There were not enough of us in favour of this proposal. It’s not a matter of numbers, but a matter of synthesis. We felt we couldn’t take the initiative, being such a small part of the anarchist movement. If we had gone into the streets thousands of people would have come but we did not want to monopolise that role, even though we believed it should be done. And it didn’t happen.
In the discussion inside the Polytechnic our proposal was absorbed by another one calling for a day of global resistance against state violence, and the assemblies of the Polytechnic and ASOEE adopted this call-out, for the second Saturday after the assassination of Alexis. On December 20 protests and actions took place in more than forty countries, and over 100 cities. It wasn’t the first day that there were events outside of Greece. From the very first days of the insurrection things started happening in other countries, like occupations of embassies, marches, in Germany London, France. The ASOEE occupation called for a march that morning, and the Polytechnic occupation called for a gathering to take place at night at the spot of the assassination.
So on the 20th we started a violent fight that spread once again to the Polytechnic. On this night we didn’t have the thousands we had two weeks before, but all the anarchists were there and they were prepared. I mention it because it was the first time that we took the initiative, the decision to call for an offensive action well in advance. We didn’t hold a march somewhere, or go off in a spontaneous group to riot. This time we decided to do this, to converge as a movement in order to go on the offensive. And this night was the first time the State started talking about suspending the asylum and invading the Polytechnic. It was the last day of mass violent struggles. They could accept spontaneous fighting but theydid not want to accept something on that scale planned in advance. It was a publicly announced attack, and they didn’t want to tolerate that. So they started a lot of discussion and propaganda about invading the Polytechnic and taking away the asylum. But they didn’t do it, because they weren’t ready to manage it politically, and I don’t know if they are ready now or if they will ever be ready Also because they were afraid of the fight; they cou1dn’t invade without spilling blood.
But after this night they revoked the university’s asylum and said they could invade at any time; if there were any more attacks they would invade. It was a psychological tactic. Previously we had decided to hold a concert the following Tuesday and despite this government pressure we decided to continue with our plans and also to transform the concert into a response to the government’s threats. We did it, although some comrades disagreed with us because there were so many people who were physically exhausted and people who couldn’t understand that our power was not our numbers inside the occupation but the social meaning of the occupation. There were people who thought that we had to announce a definite date for ending the occupation. And there were many comrades who didn’t want to hold a central march because they were afraid of the repression. They couldn't understand that it wasn’t just some anarchists against the State but that what we were doing was embraced by many people. We wouldn’t have been alone.
So we held the concert, and two days later, one day before we had scheduled an end to the occupation, some professors came to the assembly and told us that the cops were ready to invade and they would come in one hour. This had also happened the Sunday after the attack, the 21st. We ignored the warning. It was repeated the next day and this second time they were really trying to pressure us - the leftists, the professors, the syndicate of lawyers, everyone was pressuring us and waiting for the police to invade the Polytechnic. We said that it was a psychological game, They knew we didn’t want to leave and that we had an internal conflict over this question, so they wanted to exploit the event politically They wanted to be able to say that they pressured us and we came out, so they won. In response to this pressure we decided to stay longer. The same night, during the assembly; we made a pamphlet and published it, just a few words saying that they will not pass, we will not let them take the Polytechnic, we don’t give in. Just ten minutes after we published the pamphlet on Indymedia and had it read over the anarchist radio, the professors came again and said, "Okay guys, excuse us, the information was wrong, the minister had been pleading with us to stop the occupation," and we responded, "Okay, when the prime minister calls us up to beg, maybe we’ll discuss it."
An important characteristic of the occupations, besides the violence, was how they were following an anarchist model. No organ could make decisions for the occupation besides the general assembly. This wasn't an assembly of students but of all the people participating in the occupation and the lights. For example the occupation of the architectural school in the Polytechnic, they had their own assembly and they supported the general occupation, but they didn’t have any authority over the occupation as a whole. The different schools weren’t separated, it was a unified occupation. Some leftist students tried to separate the different schools, and in the first week we tried to work with them and give them space to do their own activities but they kept trying to bypass the general assembly and occupy areas of the Polytechnic just for themselves, to cut it up like a cake, in a very underhanded way. And of course they were thrown out.
After the first days of the insurrection we said that the occupation must take on another role, to be a centre of speech, of discussion, of the distribution of ideas. We made some pamphlets and some posters but we didn’t have the time and the energy to do so many things because we were tired. A few people were keeping the occupation going, day and night, and we had to do many things. But all things considered we published a lot, as did other anarchists throughout the city At the end of the first week, we opened the dining hall of the university a very luxurious establishment because it was new We opened it and started cooking every day for everybody We used it to feed the struggle, every day. There was a group of people who were working there. We had cooks and other people who went there to clean. I for example didn’t cook but I cleaned. And every day we had food for everybody notonly people living in the occupation. Poor people were coming there only to eat. To keep the restaurant stocked, groups of about thirty people formed up every day to go to supermarkets, fill up shopping carts, and take the food. And other things were expropriated as well, like fire extinguishers and the sound systems.
It was important because having this tool, this ability to feed ourselves, affected our living conditions. But it was also like a womb of the world that we want to create inside the insurrection. But also there were people coming to steal food from the occupation. I don't want to give a bad impression, but it’s okay to admit this because it was our decision to mix with everyone in the insurrection, and out of all these people who came together there were many who carried within them the culture of the enemy So there were people who came to steal mobile phones and computers to sell for money. I don't have a problem with this but when it happens in an insurrection it doesn’t advance the struggle. So that's why we put an end to this phenomenon after the second or third day, because some people were coming only to steal things. After that, any time somebody wanted to enter the gates of the campus with looted items - there were people carrying boxes of stolen goods, computers and other things - we didn't allow them in unless they gave us the objects to throw in the fire. We told them, "You have to choose: you or your computer."
I think that people were ready to go until their own personal limits. The intentions of the insurgents were not so limited; they wanted the destruction of the State, or at least the destruction of the police. If they had the means to attack further, they would have done it, many of them. But they fought until they were physically exhausted. The police didn’t stop us. We stopped. But the external limits were numerous. One of them is that we haven't constructed our world. And I don’t believe any more that in one night we will change the world. I’m not a pacifist but now I believe that as we were saying in the assemblies of the Polytechnic, if the revolution doesn’t come now, if we don’t push this insurrection to a real revolution, it will not be because we don't have the power but because we don’t have our world. And that’s what we’re building now. The truth is that already in the first week we were discussing revolution. It may seem very romantic, very fictional, very fantastic, but seeing the potential of the struggle, we knew that revolution was an open prospect, a possible future. We were ready for everything. And I’m not sure if they could have stopped us, even with the military.
I think it would have been a serious problem for the State to deploy the military I read somewhere, I’m not sure if it’s true, that the generals told the government that the army at that moment was not ready to take on such a responsibility that if we engage the army we will lose the army It's a problem for a democracy to pass to an open war. It may be efficient in the immediate moment, in a military way of seeing the conflict, but it would destroy the entire basis of State domination of society, all the links. The internal links, let’s say between society and democratic domination, Particularly in Greece. For example in Italy they have a tradition with fascism, with the domestic use of the military that is not wholly rejected by Italian society. We also have a tradition with dictatorship, we have a nationalist movement, but the dictatorship was not popular and in general the intervention of the army in social and political life is not legitimate for Greek society.
There are many factors that gave birth to the insurrection, factors that go far into the past. Why it happened in Greece, for example, Why in Greece anarchists have so much liberty to act, now as well as before the insurrection, Why it’s so easy for people here to use violence. Greek history plays an important role, In the past century after World War II, we had a guerrilla movement that never surrendered. The civil war didn’t end in negotiations, with a peace agreement between communists and nationalists as in Italy. Here we had a civil war that continued, and even when it ended its spirit continued by other means. The spirit of civil war never ended in Greece. And in this period, violent struggle was always legitimate. There were always people struggling, not only anarchist militants, not only revolutionaries, but a large part of Greek society Here, struggle is legitimate. This is one factor.A living tradition, that goes from one generation to the next, expressed in new ways.
Another factor is that the anarchist movement in Greece is very young. There were anarchists in Greece at the beginning of the 20th century but they were all repressed by the Communists and they disappeared. The movement we have now began after the ’70s. This movement from its beginnings linked up with society It wasn’t just an ideological, a closed thing. It was not just philosophical or alternative. It carried the tradition of the struggle and the violence, the tradition of Greek society the traditions of the anarchists, of direct action, and also the concentration on expanding throughout society the revolt and direct action and self-organisation. And year by year it created this potential. That means much work was done years before, with a variety of methods, working in neighbourhoods, violent struggle against the State, everything. That made this unity this synthesis.
In the ’80s, the first years of an organised anarchist movement in Greece, the anarchists were calling demonstrations and violent marches but as people who were fighting in the ’80s dropped out at the end of the decade, due to repression and other factors, there was a big change. And in the ’90s anarchists weren’t very numerous, they generally didn’t organise many marches and many of them participated in the protests of the leftists. But at the end of the ’90s, as more people joined the anarchist movement, this new generation began to stay in the movement. The first generations were lost, they left, but those of us who started to fight in the ’90s are still in the streets. The movement started to construct a history. The cause of this shift, I think, was a clearer political vision.
From the beginning of December’s insurrection, from Monday night, the State took exceptional measures to protectthe members of the government. The ministers were all assigned armed escorts and were sent into hiding. They put some military units on readiness, to come down to the city if need be. They had the soldiers equipped with plastic bullets. The cops in Athens were already shooting plastic bullets, but this wasn't new. A year earlier I was shot with a plastic bullet in a fight near Exarchia. We know that in some military units the officers were making propaganda, psychologically preparing the soldiers to deploy against the insurrection. There were rumours that if the street fighting had continued for three more days they would have sent in the military. But those of us fighting in the streets, we weren’t afraid, we weren’t discussing it as a possible end to the revolt. Of course the insurgents weren’t ready to fight against an armed force, but nobody came into the street with the belief that there was a point we could not pass, that there were limits. We just fought, and we were ready for anything. And this is the spirit of revolt.
Their democracy murders
The Polytechnic University occupation
On Saturday December 6, 2008, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a fifteen-year-old comrade, was murdered in cold blood, with a bullet in the chest by Epaminondas Korkoneas of the special guards’ police force in the area of Exarchia.
Contrary to the statements of politicians and journalists who are accomplices to the murder, this was not an "isolated incident," but an explosion of the state repression that systematically and in an organised manner targets those who resist, those who revolt, the anarchists and anti-authoritarians.
What we are seeing is an increase in state terrorism. It’s expressed in the upgrading of repressive mechanisms, the continuous armament, increasing levels of violence/zero tolerance" doctrines, and the slanderous media propaganda that criminalizes those fighting against authority.
These conditions prepare the ground for the intensification of repression, attempting to extract social consent beforehand, and arming state murderers in uniform who are targeting the people who fight - the youth, the damned who are revolting in the entire country Lethal violence against the people in the social and class struggle seeks everybody's submission, serves as exemplary punishment, and is meant to spread fear.
It is the escalation of the generalized attack of the State and the bosses against the whole of society in order to impose more rigid conditions of exploitation and oppression, to consolidate control and repression. An attack that is reflected every day in poverty social exclusion, the blackmail to adjust to the world of social and class divisions, the ideological war launched by the dominant mechanisms of manipulation (the mass media). An attack which is raging in every social space, demanding from the oppressed their division and silence. From the schools’ cells and the universities to the dungeons of waged slavery with the hundreds of dead workers in the so-called "working accidents" to the poverty embracing large numbers of the population". From the mine fields at the borders, the pogroms and the murders of immigrants and refugees to the numerous "suicides" in prisons and police stations... from the "accidental shootings" in police blockades to violent repression of local resistances, Democracy is showing its teeth!
In these conditions of fierce exploitation and oppression, and against the daily looting and pillaging that the State and the bosses are launching, taking as spoils the oppressed people’s labour force, their life, their dignity and freedom, the accumulated social suffocation is accompanying today the rage erupting in the streets and the barricades for the murder of Alexandros.
From the first moment after the murder of Alexandros, spontaneous demonstrations and riots appeared in the centre of Athens; the Polytechnic,the Economic and the Law Schools are being occupied and attacks against state and capitalist targets take place in many different neighbourhoods and in the city centre. Demonstrations, attacks and clashes erupt in Thessaloniki, Patras,Volos, Chania and Heraklion in Crete, in Giannena, Komotini, Xanthi, Serres, Sparti, Alexandroupoli, Mytilini. In Athens, in Patision Street - outside the Polytechnic and the Economic School - clashes last all night. Outside the Polytechnic the riot police make use of plastic bullets.
On Sunday the 7th of December, thousands of people march on the police headquarters in Athens, attacking the riot police. Clashes of unprecedented tension spread in the streets of the city centre, lasting until late at night. Many demonstrators are injured and a number of them are arrested.
From Monday morning until today the revolt spreads and becomes generalized. The last days are full of uncountable social events: militant high school students' demonstrations ending up - in many cases - in attacks against police stations and clashes with the cops in the neighbourhoods of Athens and in the rest of the country massive demonstrations and conflicts between protesters and the police in the centre of Athens, during which there are assaults on banks, big department stores and ministries, the siege of the Parliament in Syntagma Square, occupations of public buildings, demonstrations ending in riots and attacks against state and capitalist targets in many different cities.
The attacks of the police against youth and generally against people who are fighting, the dozens of arrests and beatings of demonstrators, and in some cases the threatening of protesters by cops waving their guns, as well as their cooperation with the fascist thugs - like in the incidents of Patras, where cops together with fascists charged against the rebels of the city - are the methods in which the State’s uniformed dogs are implementing the doctrine of “zero tolerance" under the commands of the political bosses in order to suppress the wave of revolt that was triggered last Saturday night.
The terrorism by the police occupation army is completed by the exemplary punishment of those who are arrested and now face severe accusations leading to their imprisonment: in the city of Larisa, eight arrested persons are prosecuted with the "anti"-terrorist law and were imprisoned facing charges for "criminal organization." Twenty-five immigrants who were arrested during the riots in Athens face the same charges. Also in Athens, five of the arrested on Monday were imprisoned, and five more who were arrested Wednesday night are in custody and will be taken in front of a prosecutor next Monday, facing felony charges.
At the same time, a deceitful propaganda war is launched against the people fighting, paving the way for repression, for the return to the normality of social injustice and submission.
The explosive events right after the murder caused a wave of international mobilization in memory of Alexandros and in solidarity with the revolted who are fighting in the streets, inspiring a counter-attack against the totalitarianism of democracy Concentrations, demonstrations, symbolic attacks on Greek embassies and consulates and other solidarity actions have taken place in cities in Cyprus, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Great Britain, France, Italy, Poland, Turkey, USA, in Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Slovakia, Croatia, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Belgium, New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and elsewhere.
We continue the occupation of the Polytechnic School which started on Saturday night, creating a space for all people who are lighting to gather, and one more permanent focus of resistance in the city.
In the barricades, the occupations, the demonstrations, and the assemblies we keep alive the memory of Alexandros, but also the memory of Michalis Kaltezas, of Carlo Giuliani, Michalis Prekas, Christoforos Marinos and of all the comrades who were murdered by the State. We don’t forget the social - class war in which these comrades fell and we keep open the front of a total refusal to the aged world of authority. Our actions, our attempts are the living cells of the insubordinate free world that we dream, without masters and slaves, without police, armies, prisons and borders.
The bullets of the murderers in uniform, the arrests and beatings of demonstrators, the chemical gas war launched by the police forces, the ideological attack of Democracy not only cannot manage to impose fear and silence, but they become for the people the reason to raise against state terrorism the cries of the struggle for freedom, to abandon fear and to meet - more and more every day youth, high school and university students, immigrants, jobless people, workers - in the streets of revolt. To let the rage overflow and drown them!
THE STATE,THE BOSSES,THEIR THUGS AND THEIR LACKEYS ARE MOCKING US, ROBBING US AND KILLING US!
LET’S ORGANISE, COUNTER-ATTACK AND SMASH THEM!
THESE NIGHTS BELONG TO ALEXIS!
CONCENTRATION FOR SOLIDARITY TO THE ARRESTED AT EVELPIDON COURTHOUSE: MONDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2008, 9AM
IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF ALL THE ARRESTED
We are sending our solidarity to everyone occupying universities, schools, and state buildings, demonstrating and clashing with the state murderers all over the country
We are sending our solidarity to all comrades abroad who are mobilizing, transferring our voice everywhere. In the great battle for global social liberation we stand together!
- The Occupation of the Polytechnic University in Athens, Friday, December 12, 2008
All the kids felt so much power yelling at the cops
Alexander, Thodoris, Vlasis, & Kostas: Two students and two graduates from Exarchia High School
Vlasis: Some years ago I became politically active. I’m influenced by the place where I grew up, Exarchia, and by my family. My mother was also a political activist. Those of us in the neighbourhood, we’ve experienced lots of political events that helped us deepen our political understanding.
I was in a house a few hundred meters from the crime scene. The assassination took place at about eleven o’clock [sic] and I heard about it half an hour later. I went immediately to Exarchia Square. There I found that the atmosphere was tense, and already a lot of rioting had happened even though there weren’t more than thirty people on the spot. When I got there the people assured me it was true, Alexis had been murdered, and altogether we made our way to the Polytechnic, where there was asylum. The cops blocked us from entering the university so we went back to the square. We were waiting to see what we could do but our goal was to get to the campus. At that point a group of about forty other people attacked the riot police really hard, throwing stones and molotovs, and they opened the way for us to go to the university. When I arrived at the Polytechnic I was amazed to see that even though there had been no call for a meeting there were thousands of people gathered, mobilised just through phone calls. The sheer numbers made it possible to attack the cops in a powerful way.
It was the first time I met people from all ages, from fathers on down, in a confrontation with police. All of them put Alexis in the position of their own children - they put themselves in the shoes of his parents and they made it personal. It was the first time that we saw so many people of different ages attacking the cops with such limitless determination and hatred. And they all had gathered there in just a few hours.
Alexander: Before December we were in the streets. Most children of Exarchia were influenced by the political activities that were taking place in the neighbourhood. But from the period when we were protesting and participating in the student movement (2006-2007), we took it up a level to the more violent activities during December. It developed strictly from the student struggle. The way of organising also changed. It was no longer demonstrations following a specific course but something that was happening everywhere in the city.
So that night I was getting ready to go to a party and the news spread around. I don’t remember how but it was very vague, no one knew what had happened, they just knew some shots were fired, someone was hurt, but not necessarily killed. My mother came down to my room and told me not to go out because police were shooting and things were burning. An hour later I called a classmate of mine and he told me to come down to the square, the square was on fire and a boy got shot. So when I went down there was already a big riot, and cops, but the cops were farther away in the outlying areas. The riots were spread all around the square, three and four streets away there were garbage bins burning and no cars on the streets. You had to wonder how everyone came there so quickly.
Thodoris: Before December I was not personally informed about political ideas and I didn’t participate in any political activities, even though I lived in Exarchia. During December I spoke with my friends more deeply about political ideas, and I started to participate more.
I was in my house when I heard about the killing on television. Even though I was not the type to go out in the streets, I felt depressed because I hang out with my friends in this exact place, and I realized it could have been me. The first day my parents didn’t allow me, so I didn’t go. The next day I started to go to Stournari with my friends, and I continued going every day. The scene was completely different than normal. You had the impression that you were in a war, a battlefield. It was mostly young people. That made me think, how there were so many really young people who came down into the streets just to confront the cops, throw stones, smash shops. I also saw that the neighbours in Exarchia were speaking with the demonstrators and that was good. Any type of person could come down for this reason. We were welcomed.
Kostas: I’m a graduate of Exarchia High, now I’m a university student but I still live in Exarchia. Before December I was already participating in political activities and riots and violent confrontations with the cops, but what opened my eyes is that another assassination happened just like with Michalis Kaltezas so many years before, and nothing had changed in society We were at the same point. And through this understanding your horizon opens up. You can see all the injustice of society and from this moment you fight against it however possible. And I am still doing it.
On the 6th I was with my friends outside of Exarchia. I came down half an hour later, passing by Nomiki. I saw there were already barricades and riots in Exarchia, and I stayed there for the next few days participating in the riots. I met with my company of friends, we already had an affinity group that we ran with in the demos, never following a bloc or an organization. It was just me and my friends making actions. So immediately we put this into practice again, we met and attacked the riot cops. I stayed until eight in the morning, then I took a look at the TV and what they were saying about the assassination, I went to my house and ate, and then I came back. From that day on you didn't have anything else in your head except that it was a boy that could have been me. There was no possibility of a non-violent response to this situation, so the violent practices were the only possible ones in my mind. The only reason that you were coming to the streets was to burn, smash, and fight against cops, against the whole copocracy It was the only possible response.
When the State steals something from you and doesn’t give it back then you demand it and take it back with violence, so that’s why the use of violence was the only way.
A big difference between these days and previously is that previously in the demos there were some people in the front fighting with police and most other people standing back, but this time everyone was at the front, rioting and fighting police, and no one was standing back. Me personally was helped by my parents because they never told me to stay at home. They were also inhabitants of Exarchia and felt angry, too.
Vlasis: I want to tell you about Alexis. In the beginning, he mostly just came to Exarchia on the weekends. Personally I was closer with his friends, but whenever we met we said hello. Generally speaking, he was a calm person, polite, but he had a passion to know more and more about the political activities and ideas, His friends were mainly active in the Network of Autonomous Student Groups that was formed during the student movements. It was a choice of his to hang out in Exarchia. As most of us who hang out there, he had a strong anti-cop feeling. He had a lot of reasons and a lot of arguments against the police, he could analyse the police as an oppressive machine in Exarchia and in society. He was never violent, before, when he confronted the police. Our experience from meeting with him contradicts with the testimony of the cop’s lawyer and the cop himself, who said that Alexis was one of the most violent people in Exarchia. To conclude, I have to say that all his friends, even if before they were pacifists or leftists, afterwards they transformed into the worst enemies of the police.
Alexander: The first clay of the week, Monday, most schools were open and functioning but no one was focusing on the lessons, The children and teachers were all discussing how to react, and talking about taking to the streets. It’s not true that the schools were closed on Monday maybe some were, but most of them weren’t. It was the day of the funeral - Wednesday I think - that the schools were all closed across the country We did go to class a little bit but the murder was the subject of the day. Since there was a riot close to the school many people left. Most people weren't participating in these things before the murder, they were only looking forward to their holidays, but that week you saw many people who had never protested before going down to the square to express themselves violently.
Vlasis: On Monday I was at my house when I found out about a demo that was organised by all kinds of students from many schools around Athens. The meeting point was at the spot of the murder, The moment I got there I saw thousands of young people there for Alexis. We were all wondering how the cops could be investigating whether the bullet that killed him ricocheted. Everybody was sure that if Alexis shot a policeman, they would never investigate the possibility of a ricochet, they would just charge him for murder. Everyone was angry about this hypocrisy In my mind there was a great plan orchestrated by the State and the media to cover it up.
Alexander: I thought it was funny when the students of two schools met in front of the neighbourhood police station and the cops looked so weak in front of all those angry students. That day they were ashamed, saying sorry and they weren’t attacking or being aggressive as usual. And all the kids felt so much power yelling at the cops, and throwing rotten fruit at them, those wild oranges that are all over the street in the winter.
There was a riot at Syntagma Square and I had never smelled so much tear gas. Some people fainted. Others were prepared, with masks. Lots of people were getting out of there, screaming, crying, from the gas, but the police did not chase them, they just surrounded the square. Then the huge Christmas tree caught fire and burned slowly; from the bottom up. A lot of cops gathered at the base but they didn’t know what to do. And there were a lot of people clapping. Me, during all the days of December I worked my job from six in the afternoon until midnight and then I went directly to the riots at the Polytechnic, everyday.
Vlasis: In the first few days I was in the Polytechnic but in later days I went to Nomiki, where we made some amazing actions. The cops were running after demonstrators there and we were up on the balconies of the school throwing molotovs down on them, burning many of them.You could see them burn.
Thodoris: One day I left class at noon and went to the centre, where I found myself in a very strange situation. There were some huge people with masks taking part, but for me it was obvious they were cops. I saw that they burned a bank van but when they took out the old man who was driving they beat him badly. I was almost sure these guys were from the secret police. Other days I saw these same people and they were behaving very strangely; going around in a small group with hammers, smashing irrelevant, random things, scaring neighbours, and causing trouble.
Alexander: You always see this, people acting like junkies or anarchists but causing troubles and then later you see them in front of the police station talking with the cops. Many secret police do this. There were photos of this in December, with groups of hooded people talking with policemen behind their lines, planning.
Vlasis: All of us believe that there was a plan, a set up, made public by the journalists and put into practice by the State. In other words the journalists created a debate with a dead boy on one side and the destruction of small properties on the other, and the State put it into practice. They got undercover cops to play demonstrators and smash small shops and kiosks, to produce a conflict between the social elements.
Alexander: Even though on the TV everyday they said the streets were full of young boys and girls being irresponsible, smashing and burning small businesses and cars, I never once saw any young person smash these kinds of targets, it was always old athletic men. So it was a self-fulfilled prophesy. They wanted to turn public opinion against the riot. They wanted parents to tell their children to stay home so the case could go to trial like any other case, without all the people in the streets.
Kostas: During the funeral thousands of people gathered to honour Alexis and without any reason the State stationed the riot police very close to the funeral. It was ridiculous and provocative to see the same cops who killed him, the riot police,just in front of you while the funeral was happening, And the police provoked people and shouted things at them. They were singing a humiliating song during the funeral, going "Where is Alexis? tra-la-la! tra-la-la!” It was a spark that made the whole thing explode. Then cops from all different units came to the graveyard, on motorcycle, on foot, riot police, so riots started all around the cemetery. There was panic because most people did not know how to respond to such a situation, they were normal people, old people, and they weren’t prepared.
At that moment some motorcycle cops took out their guns and fired into the air, producing more panic. After December there were many situations when the cops took out their guns. In some demonstrations there were some cops from the special branch, the ones with masks who have the license to kill, and they were brought down to confront young people. I read that in Australia after the cops killed a boy they were disarmed and given tasers, but here after they killed a boy they started using their guns even more. It became normal.
Vlasis: Many times during the insurrection, members of leftist political organizations or people representing mainstream parties would come to student assemblies and try to force them to release statements against the riots. I felt the opposite, the need to express solidarity with the people who got arrested because it is unbelievably hard to have to deal with a murder and at the same time with people from the movement going to prison.
For me December was very dynamic. There was no political party or organisation that could use it to become more popular. Everyone who was in the streets was a total militant, using violent practices without identifying themselves with the anarchist movement, but at the same moment they were standing miles away from the leftist organizations. The leftist parties and organizations, they tried to do the same thing that they always do in social movements, they tried to push the political views of the students and change the appearance ofthe communiques to make it look like the student movement was adopting their own political program. For me it is a sick idea to step on a dead body to announce your political ideas.
But there are also people who use the anarchist movement to just act like hooligans, without any ideological background.
Kostas: During December the leftists were behaving as always, they do non-violent demonstrations to beg for something from the State. This time they were begging for an apology. On the other end the anarchists always believe - and this time much more so - that the State is stealing something from our lives and they go out in the street to take it back. I feel the same way and the majority of people in these days believed it too.
Alexander: I don’t think anyone was influenced by the parties because they weren't listening. I didn’t spend time watching TV during this period. It is obvious that no one on the streets belonged to the Right but at the same time they didn’t belong to any organization.
Vlasis: However there were some people who exploited these moments, like fascist groups that used this time to make connections with the police and attack the insurgents. This is normal in social movements.
Alexander: It looked like a battlefield, those riots. You could see the Golden Dawn, the neo-nazi group, with the cops, protecting each other, and against the anarchists. They weren’t trying to hide it, everyone could see.
Thodoris: Me personally I am an Albanian immigrant. One day in December I was coming home from the gym with two friends, one from Bulgaria and another from Greece. We passed the police station responsible for killing Alexis and the MAT encircled us so no one on the outside could see what they were doing. I had my hands in my pockets so they hit my arms and shouted that I should stand at attention in front of them. They asked for our papers and we said we were immigrant students. Immediately they turned to my Greek friend and said, "What the fuck, you keep company with these malakas?" And they arrested me and the Bulgarian boy. My mother came to the police station to get me out and when she showed them my papers they saw that I was from the south of Albania, where there is a Greek minority they suddenly changed their tune. They told her to be careful that I don’t keep company with Bulgarians and other immigrants, I said to the cop that before he told my friend not to hang out with me because I was an immigrant and he said I was lying.
Me personally I have many friends from all kinds of countries like Ethiopia, Bulgaria, all over the planet. We have big problems with the copocracy because the cops and many normal people treat us like shit, like we are nothing. If the cops ask for your papers you'll have big problems. Any time you meet with the cops they behave really bad; they treat you like you're already a criminal, and they behave the same way with all of us.
A black immigrant's cry of despair
The Voice of the Black: Text written by black brothers in the occupation of ASOEE, December 19, 2008
For me, a black man, freedom stops at my apartment’s door. And I call the Greek youth, who are concerned about equality and the rights of all people. For this reason, I join you and your noble struggle, because we know that you do not ignore how the police are squeezing us in all the corners of the streets, in front of the bus stations, even in front of our houses.
Conscious youth, Greek people, I don’t say something that you don’t already know: in front of a policeman I don’t have any right but to obey up to the point where:
• he will take my residential card
• he will kick me because I display my merchandise
• he will take away all my personal belongings indefinitely
• he will hit me whenever he wants
Conscious youth, Greek people, I feel like I am in the 17th century, the century of barbarity, where it is possible to shoot a little boy, like Alexis. We join with your struggle and we express our deep condolences to his family and to the Greek people.
These days are ours, too
From the Haunt of Albanian Migrants
Following the assassination of Alexis Grigoropoulos we have been living in an unprecedented condition of turmoil, an outflow of rage that doesn’t seem to end. Leading this uprising, it seems, are the students - who with an inexhaustible passion and hearty spontaneity have reversed the whole situation. You cannot stop something you don’t control, something that is organised spontaneously and under terms you do not comprehend. This is the beauty of the uprising. The high school students are making history and leave it to the others to write it up and to classify it ideologically. The streets, the incentive, the passion belongs to them.
In the framework of this wider mobilization, with the student demonstrations being its steam engine, there is a mass participation of the second generation of migrants and many refugees also. The refugees come to the streets in small numbers, with limited organization, with spontaneity and impetus informing their mobilization. Right now they are the most militant foreigners living in Greece. Either way they have very little to lose. The children of migrants mobilize en masse and dynamically primarily through high school and university actions but also through the organizations of the Left and the far Left. They are the most integrated part of the migrant community, the most courageous. They are unlike their parents, who came with their heads bowed, as if they were begging for a loaf of bread. They are a part of the Greek society since they’ve lived in no other. They do not beg for something, they demand to be equal with their Greek classmates. Equal in rights, on the streets, in dreaming.
For us, the politically organised migrants, this is a second French November of 2005. We never had any illusions that when the peoples' rage overflowed we would be able to direct it in any way Despite the struggles we have taken on during all these years we never managed to achieve such a mass response like this one. Now is the time for the street to talk: the deafening scream is for the eighteen years of violence, repression, exploitation, and humiliation. These days are ours, too.
These days are for the hundreds of migrants and refugees murdered at the borders, in police stations, and workplaces. They are for those murdered by cops or “concerned citizens.” They are for those murdered for daring to cross the border, worked to death, for not bowing their head, or for nothing. They are for Gramos Palusi, Luan Bertelina, Edison Yahai, Tony Onuoha, Abdurahim Edriz, Modaser Mohamed Ashtraf and so many others that we haven't forgotten.
These days are for the everyday police violence that remains unpunished and unanswered. They are for the humiliations at the border and at the migrant detention centres, which continue to date. They are for the crying injustice of the Greek courts, the migrants and refugees unjustly in prison, the justice we are denied. Even now, in the days and nights of the uprising, the migrants pay a heavy toll - what with the attacks of far-righters and cops, with sentences of deportation and imprisonment that the courts hand out with Christian love to us infidels.
These days are for the exploitation continuing unabatedly for eighteen years now. They are for the struggles that are not forgotten: in the downs of Volos, the Olympic works, the town of Amaliada. They are for the toil and the blood of our parents, for informal labour, for the endless shifts. They are for the deposits and the adhesive stamps, the welfare contributions we paid and will never have recognized, They are for the papers we will be chasing for the rest of our lives like a lottery ticket.
These days are for the price we have to pay simply in order to exist, to breathe. They are for all those times when we crunched our teeth for the insults we took, the defeats we were charged with. They are for all the times when we didn’t react, even when having all the reasons in the world to do so. They are for all the times when we did react and we were alone because our deaths and our rage did not fit pre-existing shapes, didn’t bring votes in, didn’t sell in the prime-time news.
These days belong to all the marginalized, the excluded, the people with the difficult names and the unknown stories. They belong to all those who die every day in the Aegean Sea and Evros River, to all those murdered at the border or on a central Athens street; they belong to the Roma in Zefyri, to the drug addicts in Exarchia. These days belong to the kids of Messollogiou Street, to the un-integrated, the uncontrollable students. Thanks to Alexis, these days belong to us all.
Eighteen years of silent rage are too many.
To the streets, for solidarity and dignity.
We haven't forgotten, we won't forget-these days are yours too, Luan, Tony, Mohamed, Alexis...
Invitation to the Open Popular Assembly of the Liberated City Hall of Aghios Dimitrios
On December 6th, 2008, the special guard Epaminondas Korkoneas pulled out his gun and murdered a citizen, a fifteen-year-old kid. The rage that everyone feels is huge, despite all the attempts by the government and the mass media to disorient public opinion. It is now certain that this insurrection is not only homage to the unjust loss of Alexandros Grigoropoulos. There has been a lot of talk since then about violence, thefts, and pillages. For those in the media and power, violence is only what destroys the proper order.
For us however:
Violence is to work forty years for crumbs and to wonder if you will ever retire,
Violence is the bonds, the stolen pensions, the securities fraud,
Violence is to be forced to take a housing loan that you will pay back through the nose,
Violence is the managerial right of the employer to fire you at will,
Violence is unemployment, temporary employment, 700 euros a month,
Violence is the "industrial accidents" that happen because the bosses cut costs at the expense of worker safety,
Violence is to take psycho-medications and vitamins to withstand the exhaustive work schedule,
Violence is to be an immigrant, to live with the fear that you can be thrown out of the country at any time and to be in a state of constant insecurity,
Violence is to be simultaneously a wage worker, a housewife, and a mother,
Violence is to be worked to death and then to be told “smile, we are not asking that much of you,"
The insurrection of high school and university students, of temporary workers and immigrants, broke this violence of normality. This insurrection must not stop! Syndicalists, political parties, priests, journalists, and businesspeople do whatever they can to maintain the violence we described above. It is not just them, but we too are responsible for the perpetuation of this situation. The insurrection opened a space where we can finally express ourselves freely As a continuation of this opening we went forward with the occupation of the City Hall of Ag. Dimitrios and the formation of a popular assembly open to all.
An open space for communication, to break our silence, to undertake action for our life.
Saturday December 13, 2008, 7:00pm, open popular assembly at the Ag. Dimitrios City Hall.
NO PROSECUTION - IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF ALL THOSE ARRESTED
-The occupation of Aghios Dimitrios City Hall
I thought the revolution was coming
Katerina: A Thessaloniki student sympathetic to the anarchist movement
December... it was amazing. Everyone was in the streets. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I thought the revolution was coming, I really did! There was so much energy all the normal ways of living had ended and it was all in the streets. There was a lot of violence, lots of burning. It was very frightening. There was a rumour that they would send in the military I got scared - after the 3rd or 4th day I shut myself in my apartment. I didn’t have television, no radio, no Internet. I would just go out on my balcony sometimes to look out in the streets, to see if everything was alright. I expected to see soldiers some morning.
But in December I learned that the TV is the most powerful weapon they have. The most important. It's the only one they need. To make people afraid, to make people stay home, to misinform people, to turn people against the revolution. Now I think everyone has gone back to their old lives, to the normal way of doing things, thanks to the TV.
I want to eliminate everything that represents the alienation of our lives
Maria: An anarchist poet
It was after midnight, the first night, the people didn’t know what was going on. And I was explaining to people that the cops had killed someone. There were about forty police on the street, there outside Monastiraki metro station, below Acropolis. The cops looked at us, the drunk people, the normal people, the posh people who had gone out to drink whiskey and dance, and it was the first moment that they heard that the cops had killed a young boy. Suddenly the cops tried to ar- rest one person who was crossing the road. I was getting really angry and, with my friends, we were all saying we have to do something, we can't let them take him away. So I went toward the cops, pushing against their shields. One of them shoved me back. I felt a pain in my chest and I knew that I didn’t have the physical power to push him back. I dragged one of my male friends in front of me, and I pushed him ahead of me, using him like a shield. My friends were my shield. Of course, he was hit by the police. I felt guilty but it wasn’t that bad. So I’m shouting, swearing at the MAT My friends grabbed me and told me it's over, they gave up trying to arrest the guy
Later, but still at the beginning of the revolt, I think in the first week, at the main commercial place in Athens, Psiri, we smashed the shops and the ATMs. One bank building was burned. Another time I came up against the MAT in a big demonstration. I was in the front line without any protective gear, but I was wearing my passion for freedom to fight face to face with the police. Of course, when my comrades hit the riot police with their clubs, and the riot police threw tear gas, I ran because I didn’t have a mask or a club. But I had the love of my comrades and the will to eliminate the first layer of the apparatus.
Another day I was carrying the molotovs in a bag. I couldn’t throw them because I didn’t possess complete hatred, the psychological and emotional power to set someone on fire. But it’s not that I couldn’t have this power, it's that I consciously choose not to. But carrying this bag, I felt responsible for the actions that would happen with its contents. I had volunteered to carry this bag in order to sneak in molotovs and deliver them to specific people. It’s an important role. The tear gas canisters and the first molotovs were being thrown. And I’m there with a bag reeking of benzine, and I got afraid and wanted to throw the bag away but my boyfriend says to me, keep the bag, keep the bag. I held onto the bag, which I knew was a medium for the continuation of this struggle. I waited for my fear to subside, and I continued. I kept going until I found my comrades and handed out our weapon, our answer to the enemy.
During the revolt I realised that I would play the role of carrying weapons for the movement, for the demonstrations, for the actions, but that I would not personally carry out the burnings and smashings. I believe that beneath the ashes of Capital will be born our new dreams. Sometimes I walk in the streets of the metropolis, I walk in the streets of my village, and I am aggravated by the big commercial centres, the luxury shops and the mundane bars, and I want them to disappear. I want to smash them apart, to burn them, to eliminate everything that represents the alienation of our lives. That is why I do what I do, and even though I personally am not strong enough to go face to face with the police, I know that I play an important role.
Before the revolt, all the Greeks were enslaved
Sofia, Vasilis, Bill, Irini: The owners of a luxury boutique near Nomiki
Vasilis: Before December, for many different reasons, it seemed that there was a lot of wrong-headedness in the government, but the majority of society was self-centred. Each person was focused on their own survival.
Sofia: It’s not that Greek culture or the social context caused all this egoism. For many years the government and the economic system forced people to behave like this, to only pursue their self-interest. The system puts a knife to your throat and it seems that you don’t have any other choice but to run for your survival. You’re so trapped you become like a volcano inside.
Irini: Before the revolt, all the Greeks were enslaved. Everyone was running the rat race, or almost everyone. I already knew some anarchists personally and I had the best opinion of them.
Vasilis: I never realized what their active role in the social context of Greece was, even though I knew some anarchists personally. Possibly most of the people who entered the anarchist movement did so as a negation of society. I don’t think it was an intellectual process for them or a personal cultivation, but rather negativism. There was a big gap between what I was reading in the university about anarchist theory and the experiences I had with the anarchists in the centre of Athens.
Bill: An educational process is essential to changing society. The authorities consciously mis-educate people to keep them submissive. If suddenly today society transforms the economy into an egalitarian system, perhaps everything would collapse in chaos. That’s why the cultural side of the anarchist movement is so important, not the violence. But I think most of the property destruction in December was caused by criminals.
Sofia: Over the last few years I have made some new friends who are anarchists. Their opinions have influenced me, and now I believe that there is a very important role for anarchist movements in all societies, that it can be very beneficial during a period of abusive authority; or under a government that creates problems rather than solving them. I believe that anarchy cannot exist because societies are so huge and they surely need laws and rules and forms of control. The role of the anarchists is to express the voice of the voiceless, the anger of the people, to feel the social pulse, and to express criticism against the authorities. In a way I feel that the anarchists try to do what Jesus Christ expressed - I’m going to bring down the world in seven days and then in seven days I’m going to bring it back. And to do this you have to cultivate a very high consciousness. You have to be a saint to achieve this goal. It seems utopian.
Vasilis: Now let’s talk about why we created this boutique here in the centre of Athens. I studied archaeology, but in the end I decided with Irini and Sofia to create this boutique to live like a simple man, to have a regular life. I don’t have capitalistic ambitions.
Vasilis: It’s important to explain that we want to live a normal life.
Irini: I don’t want to live a normal life at all!
Vasilis: She’s a diva! Anyway this was before December. It’s important to mention that the biggest long time riots took place in front of our shop, on this corner, Solonos and Massalias.
Irini: We met in the drama school, Sofia and I, and this shop was born out of our friendship. It is a creation of joy.
Sofia: I studied business administration before going to drama school. The first step was our friendship, and that we love clothes. And of course we have to admit that our goal is to profit. Profit in order to survive. It's a job. But if we worked hard we had the chance to become our own bosses, and this helped us realize that we were assuming a major responsibility not only to ourselves but also to society. When you are your own boss it's up to you to sustain what you are doing through all the difficulties, through the economic crisis, to not let it fall apart.
Bill: If you look at our stories you will see that each one of us worked two or three jobs and also had two or three identities - we had different aspects of our lives. Often when we speak about who we were. I choose from these three identities who I would like to be, not who I actually am. All this is a matter of surviving.
Irini: I was in a hospital working as a nurse, that’s my night job, and I saw on TV that the cops had killed a fifteen-year-old in the centre of Athens. I was wondering why this happened and all the excuses that I found on the TV were that the boy shouted at them. And I was wondering if it was possible for the cops to kill someone for cursing at them.
Vasilis: I was on a bus and I heard on the radio that a child died, killed by cops, and half of my mind said, so what? And the other half of my mind said, "If I don’t react, the prison of our lives will expand." I was feeling strange. My intuition told me that something was going to happen, but I didn’t know what.
Bill: I was in the north of Greece, and I felt surprised when I found out, and hopeful in the same moment. Surprised that we had come to the point where a fifteen-year-old could be assassinated, and hopeful because I saw that in just half an hour in the middle of nowhere in northern Greece people were gathering and reacting to what had happened. I said to myself that society is still alive, it still has some sensitivity.
Sofia: I was in my house, which is in the richest area of Athens. For me it was not a surprise, I was expecting it. Children are dying every day everywhere. The only thing that surprised me... it’s like when you hear about people dying from cancer, it’s just a disease. But when it comes into your house and someone from your family gets cancer, then you realize what cancer is. Likewise, when this assassination happened in our society and the revolt occurred here as a reaction, I felt that now we are one family. And in this way the reaction has meaning, it unites the society. So my first reaction was to call an anarchist girl I know and to ask her, what is going to happen? From the beginning I was expecting the reaction. But I could never imagine that all these thousands of people would appear from nowhere. I was expecting that only the anarchists would react. So my friend says that they are going to gather, and I said to her I’m coming down to the centre to switch off the lights of my shop because I knew that total chaos would ensue. Because of my personal links with some anarchists, I knew that total chaos was a certainty.
On Sunday I called this friend again and I asked her what was happening. She told me not to come down to the centre alone, because everything was out of control in the whole city. So I just switched off the shop lights and went back to my house. On Monday people attacked the shop. At the same moment, I was 300 meters away in the demonstration. And that’s when our personal experience begins. It’s like schizophrenia.
Bill: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Sofia: In the demonstration, I felt that the police showed tolerance, like they felt guilty so they were waiting for the wave to pass over them. In the beginning the police were allowing the people to express their anger, and this led to many people from the demonstration starting to smash everything around. The police thought it would all end soon but it only snowballed. All kinds of banks and shops were being attacked. At the same time many of the demonstrators, faced with this uncontrollable situation, started to lose the unified meaning that brought all of them out in the street and they began to feel fear or alienation. I found myself happy because the cynicism and the smug security of the authorities had been shattered, but the social protection of the State was also broken down. The State could not protect anything. Everything collapsed. The entire market collapsed, as did this idea, this statue of the State as protector. On the one hand I felt happy because the State collapsed and became naked before the eyes of all the people but on the other hand I felt completely handicapped, because since the State couldn’t protect my shop, I couldn’t protect it either.I felt exposed and powerless.
So at that point I started to feel like a hostage, because I wanted to be in the demonstration, to shout and watch the State collapse and see things change, but on the other hand I needed to protect my shop. It's like when the Palestinians in the '70s hijacked airplanes to defend their right to exist as a nation - suddenly I felt like I was inside this airplane and I agreed with the Palestinians but at the same moment my life was threatened, my livelihood was used as a tool for another cause, a cause I already agreed with. And I felt scared.
Irini: When I first heard about the riots I felt perfectly enthusiastic and I really enjoyed it. If something good will appear through this burning, burn them all. But really all of it, burn everything, even my shop. And even the moment that my shop was smashed, I still continued to believe that it wasn't a problem, that it would be much better if they burned everything, all the big corporations, the banks, the parliament building, everything. So that nothing would remain. But this is not easy at all. People have to decide what will be burned and what won’t be, and they decide on the basis of what is accessible. So the big malls in the suburbs continued to function during these days because it was very difficult to attack them. They are far away and well protected. As a result, Capital benefited. I cannot believe that it was the anarchists who did all this. That’s why I continue to respect them.
Vasilis: On Monday Sofia called me and said that our boutique had suffered serious damages, I was shocked. "What are you going to do?" Sofia asked me. I didn’t know. "Come here quickly, we have to protect the store! Are you coming?" I replied, "I don’t know, I need to think." At this time I was in bed, watching TV constantly like a statue without life or breath, without a goal, Our shop had only been open for two months. My dreams were dying. How could I react as a human being? As a member of society? Who was I? On Tuesday morning, I chose my role: I decided that this store was me and I would protect it in the same way I would protect my thoughts and ideas as a human being. Everybody assumes that to be the owner of a shop means to be a capitalist, but I wanted to avoid the capitalist idea of ownership.
On Wednesday morning I was in the demonstration with a group of actors.We went to Syntagma, and then split up and I decided to come back to the shop. At Panepistimio, it was like the silence before the storm. And I saw a big mass of people running towards Nomiki, where our shop is. I realized that I had to run there myself, with this mass of people, because I couldn't explain to the police that I wasn’t one of them if I got caught alone, Inside the group I suddenly saw a friend of mine. We ran to the law school. All those thousands of people were trying to go inside the university I continued running to my shop. The girl started to shout at me, "Where are you going? They’ll arrest you! Come inside and protect yourself." And I said to her, "I’m going to my shop." Suddenly we found ourselves looking at each other and freezing. And in this moment I felt completely crazy because I didn’t know who I was.
All the other nights we were here in the shop, protecting it. One night there was a huge fire on the corner, a barricade. One junky a real obvious heroin addict, came up slowly and put a wooden chair in the fire at the barricade. And then he shuffled up to me and Sofia and he asked us, "Hey you guys, l can I ask you something? Oh, no, no need." And we imagined that he wanted to ask us for money. He came back and said, "Okay, whatever I ’ll ask you. Maybe its possible to stay with you here in the university, together with you and your fellow students? Because I don’t have any other place to stay." And we told him, of course you can stay, go inside the university with all the others and stay with them. In a way I felt angry because I thought this person didn’t have any understanding, that he wasn't participating in what was happening. While I was thinking all this he was looking strangely at me. And he asked me, "Are you a cop?" And we said, "No way." He started to walk away down the middle of the road. Then he turned and asked, "Do I look like a junky?" And Sofia said, "No no, you underestimate yourself."
Sofia: I was together in the demonstration with my anarchist friend. And there was one young boy holding a molotov. Some guy in his mid-thirties went up to him and told him not to hold the molotov with bare hands, better to use gloves. And the young boy said, "You can’t tell me what to do, I’m not a kid." And this made me think that the young people are full of rage, they are very suppressed, and all this was a revolt of the younger generation against the older generation. Then I felt a little sad. I thought that in the same moment that we can talk about global revolution, we are faced with a generation gap, with people just revolting against their parents. This struck me as immature. We continued walking and we saw an old woman on the corner carrying shopping bags, going to speak to some young people and tell them not to destroy everything mindlessly, not to destroy the National Library or things that were irrelevant to their struggle. And the young people didn’t shout at her, they just politely said: "Of course some people make mistakes. But you give as this advice standing outside the demonstration. Come inside the demonstration and with your knowledge you’ll help make it all better." My friend pointed out to me that these two generations met on the street and they spoke to each other, they changed each other. In the end people are not isolated in their private, distanced worlds; they share their opinions.
Some days later the rioting stopped, but the important thing that remained is that the people met each other and they shared their opinions. In this strange way it looked like the ancient demos, the old direct democracy, where everyone met in the streets and shared ideas and opinions like the ancient Greeks.
Vasilis: The story is continuing. Not the history, the story. You're very lucky to be writing this story because it's not the end, maybe it's the beginning.
One day we jacked a fire engine, got on the CB radio, and said, "Tonight, you motherfuckers, we will burn you all"
Transgressio Legis: An insurrectionary anarchist group in Athens engaged in counterinformation and direct action
Our group began in early November, and our main subjects of interest were support for prisoners (social and political) and, practically speaking, direct actions centred around attacks. Practice rioting. In the first month there was the general hunger strike by the prisoners, with 5,000 participating in prisons all around Greece. Then there was the demonstration in Thessaloniki for Vaggelis Botzatzis and the three wanted comrades. After this we were in a period of critical thinking and evaluation. The campaign was a big success in influencing prisoners; most of them participated, and they captured the attention of all Greek society. It became known, and the news spread internationally. On the other hand the mass media of Greece buried the story They did not focus on the efforts of the prisoners themselves, they focused on the different organizations and political parties that participated as intermediaries between the prisoners and the government. In the period that we and other groups were busy evaluating this campaign, suddenly everything was interrupted by the sound of three bullets in Exarchia.
The assassination of Alexis created parallel opportunities for many different courses to be realized by society in general. It made openings for masses of people to adopt practices that in other circumstances they would never adopt: the lootings, the burning, especially the attacks against the police. On the other hand there were people who had been preparing and carrying out such actions for many years. And through the continuity of these attacks over the last few years and the powerful propaganda of the government and mass media against these actions, society knew from the first moment that l when they come down to Exarchia, they would find people who would help them to smash, burn, and attack. When society felt the need to revolt, they knew from the beginning where they could find people who would help them respond to this brutality as equals, It was the same in Thessaloniki and other cities. So because of all this, all the people with different grievances, everyone who was fed up with the scandals and problems of the last years, the people who were fed up with the low salaries, the people who couldn’t stand their schools anymore, the immigrants who couldn’t stand the brutality and insults of the police anymore, all these people knew where they could find comrades who would help them to revolt. The people were witnessing the attacks by anarchists for many years and they knew that there were specific points in the city where they would find comrades to help them fight back.
The assassination was the straw that broke the camel's back. Especially for students, but also for the anarchists and the activists and immigrants and precarious workers and all the people in the society who were oppressed and exploited. The most important development was the occupation of government buildings and universities, they would function as starting points, as places to prepare the riots, as well as counter-information spaces. Some very important moments in December were the result of decisions made at general assemblies, not just the initiative of small groups. Like the burning of Tiresias, the central archive of the treasury where they keep all the information relating to people’s debts to the government or to the banks. Another important moment was when the policeman who killed Alexis was brought to court. One hundred people attacked the convoy he was in with molotovs in a very well-planned action. It was particularly difficult because it took place in front of the central courthouse while there were a ton of police protecting it. And it was a great success. Then there was the initiative to attack the metro stations, breaking the ticket machines, writing graffiti in all the stations, and spreading thousands of pamphlets demanding free transportation as well as criticizing the meaning of public transportation as travel from home to work and back home, like a poleodomic, an urban symbol of obedience to the compartmentalization of life in jobs and houses.
And we can’t forget the attack on the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning. The entire building burned to cinders. This was in solidarity with the people of Lefkimi, a town in Corfu, who for the last year have been fighting hard against the police and the government to keep a new garbage dump from being built in their area. In the riots the cops had killed a woman, one of the protesters. So they burned this ministry building completely After this action, which became very public because of all the announcements that appeared in the blogs and Indymedia and other Internet sites of the movement, the people of the town sent a letter of thanks for the solidarity actions, an official announcement of thanks. These were just some of the actions that happened in the first ten days.
An important part of the spirit of December was that tens of thousands of high school students appeared in the streets all around Greece, most of them for the first time, even as young as twelve and thirteen years old. Many of the students occupied their own schools and then used them to prepare street protests and attacks against police stations with molotovs and stones. There were times when twenty-five different police stations were simultaneously under attack by high schoolers. This produced the image that a civil war was occurring just like sixty years ago, but instead of being between the communists and the right wing, it was between the youth and the government. In addition to the student occupations there were occupations of government and municipal buildings all over the country carried out by old people, young people, and workers. It was a meeting of many social elements. Many of these other people didn’t become as active, they didn’t participate as much as anarchists were hoping they would, but it was a great moment, this meeting.
It was very empowering for us that solidarity actions took place all over the world. Many of these actions took place in countries where it is very difficult to carry out direct actions and the feeling that comrades in these countries were taking action for the Greek movement gave us the power to do more here. And we want to say thank you. This solidarity also produced a great fear among the governments of the planet, demonstrated for example by how Sarkozy revoked the law to privatize the universities to avoid general riots in France.
There were also many funny incidents in December. Perhaps the funniest was on the 10th of December. We jacked a fire engine and were driving it around. We got on the CB radio and radioed to the dispatcher, we were saying, “Tonight you motherfuckers we will burn you all!" At the time the journalists had been saying hysterically that the anarchists were burning everything to the ground and the fire department couldn’t stop the fires, so this was a great joke. And the girl in the station was saying, “Please get off this frequency because we are getting lots of calls and we can’t coordinate all the different fire engines around the city." She was begging. At the same time that all this happened, the symbol of Christmas consumption, the big Christmas tree in front of Parliament was in flames. Journalists were shouting on all the channels that 300 anarchists broke through the line of riot cops and are going behind the Parliament to burn down the house of the prime minister, and this was true. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was facing molotov attacks, the main commercial street of Kolonaki was being completely burned at the same moment, and during all this the regime was in a complete panic and they were spreading rumours on the TV that we were under the threat of dictatorship and the only solution would be to call down the army and restore order.
The attacks against the police were very heavy. The molotovs came down like rain. We weren’t using small beer bottles anymore, we were making molotovs with big wine bottles. We had no more fear. There was a very strong feeling that we had the moral right to attack the government and the police. There were many normal people in the riots who were helping us in every way. When they saw comrades with molotovs, they were telling us where the police were. They protected us from the police the same way, giving us warnings. And when the rumours started to spread that the military would be called into the streets, we were wishing it would happen so that what we have been talking about for all these years, the civil war, the class war, would become a reality
We personally participated in the riots of '91 and ’95, which were the biggest riots in Greece over the last few decades. But for us, December was the first time that people felt so courageous and enthusiastic. And this feeling was spread among non-political people, it didn’t matter if they were anarchists or leftists or political activists, it was the general feeling of society manifested by pure and deep hatred against the police. Whoever saw police uniforms saw a target, and this expanded from one side of the country to the other.
During the riots, the incredible thing is that people appeared and took on important roles when up until that moment they had been volomeni, people who were complacent and had their basic needs met, like a car and television and a house. Even these people felt that this was a great moment for Greek society and they felt an urge to come down to the streets and take part in the riot. In a practical way this enabled everything to happen.
Our cause has always been to produce chaos. What many people say is a utopia, we have experienced it in our lifetimes. And as we have succeeded in living it once, we are 100% sure that it will happen again on a global scale. And this certainty exists because the simple people who maybe vote for the conservative party or live their normal lives, there comes a moment when they realize that the only way to succeed in their lives is to lose, to lose their normal lives, and the moment they realize this they come into the streets in the most powerful of ways and fight alongside the initiators and provokers of these fights. And then we have to take care to allow these people to become the vanguard of the struggle, and not us.
We are here / We are everywhere / We are an image from the future
Ego Te Provoco: December 11, 2008
If l do not burn
If you do not burn
If we do not burn
How will darkness come to light?
- Nazim Hikmet, "Like Kerem”
Clenching fear in their teeth the dogs howl: Return to normality - the fools’ feast is over. The philologists of assimilation have already started digging up their razor-sharp caresses: "We are ready to forget, to understand, to exchange the promiscuity of these few days,but now behave or we shall bring over our sociologists, our anthropologists, our psychiatrists! Like good fathers we have tolerated your emotional eruption with restraint - now look at how desks, offices and shop windows gape empty! The time has come for a return, and whoever refuses this holy duty shall be hit hard, shall be sociologised, shall be psychiatrised. An injunction hovers over the city: “Are you at your post?" Democracy social harmony national unity and all the other big hearths stinking of death have already stretched out their morbid arms.
Power (from the government to the family) aims not simply to repress the insurrection and its generalisation, but to produce a relation of subjectification. A relation that defines bios, that is political life, as a sphere of cooperation, compromise and consensus. “Politics is the politics of consensus; the rest is gang-war, riots, chaos." This is a true translation of what they are telling us, of their effort to deny the living core of every action, and to separate and isolate us from what we can do: not to unite the two into one, but to rupture again and again the one into two. The mandarins of harmony the barons of peace and quiet, law and order, call on us to become dialectic. But those tricks are desperately old, and their misery is transparent in the fat bellies of the trade union bosses, in the washed-out eyes of the intermediaries, who like vultures perch over every negation, over every passion for the real. We have seen them in May, we have seen them in LA and Brixton, and we have been watching them over decades licking the now long white bones of the 1973 Polytechnic. We saw them again yesterday when instead of calling for a permanent general strike, they bowed to legality and called off the strike protest march. Because they know all too well that the road to the generalisation of the insurrection is through the field of production-through the occupation of the means of production of this world that crushes us.
Tomorrow dawns a day when nothing is certain. And what could be more liberating than this after so many long years of certainty? A bullet was able to interrupt the brutal sequence of all those identical days. The assassination of a fifteen-year-old boy created a displacement strong enough to turn the world upside down.A displacement from the seeing through of yet another day to the point that so many think simultaneously: “That was it, not one step further, all must change and we will change it.” The revenge for the death of Alexis has become the revenge for every day that we are forced to wake up in this world. And what seemed so hard proved to be so simple.
This is what has happened, what we have. If something scares us it is the return to normality. For in the destroyed and pillaged streets of our cities of light we see not only the obvious results of our rage, but the possibility of starting to live. We no longer have anything to do than to install ourselves in this possibility transforming it into a living experience: by grounding on the field of everyday life, our creativity our power to materialise our desires, our power not to contemplate but to construct the real. This is our vital space. All the rest is death.
Those who want to understand will understand. Now is the time to break the invisible cells that chain each and everyone to his or her pathetic little life. And this does not require solely or necessarily one to attack police stations and torch malls and banks. The time that one deserts his or her couch and the passive contemplation of his or her own life and takes to the streets to talk and to listen, leaving behind anything private, introduces into the field of social relations the destabilising force of a nuclear bomb. And this is precisely because the (till now) fixation of everyone on his or her microcosm is tied to the traction forces of the atom. Those forces that make the (capitalist) world turn. This is the dilemma: with the insurgents or alone. And this is one of the really few times that a dilemma can be at the same time so absolute and real.
UP AGAINST THE WALL MOTHERFUCKERS!
WE’VE COME FOR WHAT'S OURS...
In these days of rage, spectacle as a power-relation, as a relation that imprints memory onto objects and bodies, is faced with a diffuse counter-power that deterritorialises impressions allowing them to wander away from the tyranny of the image and into the field of the senses. Senses are always felt antagonistically (they are always acting against something) - but under the current conditions they are driven toward an increasingly acute and radical polarisation.
Against the supposedly peaceful caricatures of bourgeois media (“violence is unacceptable always, everywhere"), we can only respond: their rule, the rule of gentle spirits and consent, of dialogue and harmony is nothing but a well calculated pleasure in beastliness: a promised carnage. The democratic regime in its peaceful façade doesn’t kill an Alexis every day precisely because it kills thousands of Ahmeds, Fatimas, Jorges, Jin Tiaos and Benajirs: because it assassinates systematically structurally and without remorse the entirety of the Third World, that is the global proletariat. It is in this way, through this calm everyday slaughter, that the idea of freedom is born: freedom not as a supposedly panhuman good, nor as a natural right for all, but as the war cry of the damned, as the premise of civil war.
The history of the legal order and the bourgeois class brainwashes us with an image of the gradual and stable progress of humanity within which violence stands as a sorry exception stemming from the economically; emotionally and culturally underdeveloped.Yet all of us who have been crushed between school desks, behind offices, in factories, know only too well that history is nothing but a succession of bestial acts installed upon a morbid system of rules. The cardinals of normality weep for the law that was violated by the bullet of the pig Korkoneas (the killer cop). But who doesn’t know that the force of the law is merely the force of the powerful? That law itself allows violence to be exercised on violence? The law is void from end to bitter end; it contains no meaning, no target other than the coded power of imposition.
At the same time, the dialectic of the Left tries to codify conflict, battle and war, with the logic of the synthesis of opposites. In this way it constructs an order; a pacified condition within which everything has its proper little place. Yet, the destiny of conflict is not synthesis - as the destiny of war is not peace. Social insurrection comprises the condensation and explosion of thousands of negations, yet it does not contain even in a single one of its atoms, nor in a single one of its moments its own negation, its own end. This always comes heavy and gloomy like a certainty from the institutions of mediation and normalisation, from the Left promising voting rights at sixteen, disarmament but preservation of the pigs, a welfare state, etc. Those, in other words, who wish to capitalise political gains upon the wounds of others. The sweetness of their compromise drips with blood.
Social counter-violence cannot be held accountable for what it does not assume: it is destructive from end to end. If the struggles of modernity have anything to teach us, it is not their sad adhesion to the subject (class, party group) but their systematic anti-dialectical process: the act of destruction does not necessarily need to carry a dimension of creation. In other words, the destruction of the old world and the creation of a new comprise two discrete but continuous processes. The issue then is what methods of destruction of the given can be developed in different points and moments of the insurrection. Which methods cannot only preserve the level and the extent of the insurrection, but contribute to its qualitative upgrading. The attacks on police stations, the clashes and roadblocks, the barricades and street battles now comprise an everyday and socialised phenomenon in the metropolis and beyond. And they have contributed to a partial deregulation of the circle of production and consumption. And yet, they still comprise a partial targeting of the enemy; direct and obvious to all, yet entrapped in one and only dimension of the attack against dominant social relations. However, the process of production and circulation of goods in itself, in other words, the capital-relation, is only indirectly hit by the mobilisations. A spectre hovers over the city torched: the indefinite, wild general strike.
The global capitalist crisis has denied the bosses their most dynamic, most extorting response to the insurrection: "We offer you everything,forever, while all they can offer is an uncertain present." With one firm collapsing after the other, capitalism and its state are no longer in a position to offer anything other than worse days to come, tightened financial conditions, sacks, suspension of pensions, welfare cuts, the crushing of free education. Contrarily, in just seven days, the insurgents have proved in practice what they can do: to turn the city into a battlefield, to create enclaves of communes across the urban fabric, to abandon individuality and their pathetic security, seeking the composition of their collective power and the total destruction of this murderous system.
At this historical conjuncture of crisis, rage, and the dismissal of institutions at which we finally stand, the only thing that can convert the systemic deregulation into a social revolution is the total rejection of work. When street fighting will be taking place in streets dark from the strike of the electricity company; when clashes will be taking place amidst tons of uncollected rubbish, when trolley-buses will be closing streets, blocking off the cops, when the striking teacher will be lighting up his revolted pupil’s molotov cocktail, then we will be finally able to say: “Ruffians, the days of your society are numbered; we weighed its joys and its justices and we found them all too short." This, today, is no longer a mere fantasy but a concrete ability in everyone’s hand: the ability to act concretely on the concrete. The ability to charge the skies.
If all of these, namely the extension of the conflict into the sphere of production-circulation - with sabotages and wild strikes seem premature - it might just be because we haven’t quite realised how fast power decomposes, how fast confrontational practices and counter-power forms of organising are socially diffused: from high school students pelting police stations with stones, to municipal employees and neighbours occupying town halls. The revolution does not take place with prayers toward, and piety for, historical conditions. It occurs by seizing whatever opportunity of insurrection in every aspect of the social; by transforming every reluctant gesture of condemnation of the cops into a definite strike at the foundations of this system.
Off the pigs!
The media as part of the counter-insurgency
Ego Te Provoco: Four members of a counter-information group in Athens
We are a group that creates counter-information addressing existing issues, against the ideological war being waged by the State and Capital. We make brochures, posters, a newsletter. We intervene in the discourse around current affairs and also carry out a permanent campaign of ideological sabotage of a more general nature.
In the first four days it was very different, until the funeral, because the media were not unleashing their full counterinsurgency strategy. They were not able to have a consistent approach during December. For example leading journalists were saying this was a rebellion and a just rebellion, and other journalists were complaining that rioters were attacking irrelevant shops, thus implicitly suggesting that there were relevant shops, that it was justified to smash banks or certain other shops. They had no consistent approach. In the West there is a consensus between news agencies about how to report things, like condemning them or not reporting things from the grassroots. But in Greece that consensus does not exist because all the channels compete to report the most exciting stories, and the channels reflect different interests. Some news channels want the government to collapse and they want the next government to adopt a certain policy. So, objectively speaking, some of the media were actually helping us. They did not have this consensus that they would leave all their differences behind and defend the State. Instead they were working on a micropolitical level.
In the main right wing newspaper you could see the conflict. One line of articles was dead against the squats, arguing that they should all be evicted, and then there was another article arguing for the legalisation of the squats, funding them and turning them into art centres. But this government would never do it. The conservative party is very old-fashioned, very uncool. It’s all about repression, not about assimilation. It’s a good thing the Socialists weren’t in power in December, because they're much better at that kind of thing.
Another example is the surveillance cameras on the street. They were installed by the Socialists for the Olympics. Many were not functioning so the right wing party says they want to put them all in operation and now the Socialists are crying their heads off saying this is fascist. Rather than acknowledging, okay this is a tool of the State and it will make us all stronger, instead they are playing at being defenders of human rights. There is no consistent policy.
The killing of Alexis and the uprising made people listen; they were much more interested in counter-information. Usually when you hand out leaflets one out of three people takes it but in December people would queue up to take it, they would demand leaflets from you. Our need for counter-information started about three days after the beginning, when we realised that it was an uprising and we had to produce a counter-discourse. One of the main things we tried to get across is the fact that the State doesn’t kill an Alexis every day because the State kills hundreds of immigrants and Third World workers. So one of our main foci was, you know, Greek society was so upset about the death of this white First World boy but doesn’t give a shit about the immigrants killed a few blocks down the street or the trafficked Russian women getting raped. The other thing we put forward was a discourse against democracy, because many people were saying, what kind of democracy kills children, we need more democracy and we were trying to deconstruct this whole notion of democracy to claim that this murder is not an exception, it is the rule of democracy the rule of the nation-state, the rule of capitalism.
In the beginning the media failed in their counterinsurgency work. Everyone failed in the beginning. They tried to project the fear of the ruling classes onto the general population, but it no longer applied. During the uprising we would be masked and carrying big iron sticks but people would still come and sit with us and take leaflets from us. It had become a completely normal figure, the koukoulofori.
But after about four days they began to make their coverage more effective. Shop owners began to demand more protection from the police, because the media focused a lot on damage to private property. In contrast in the beginning the shop owners said they weren’t going to discuss a few smashed windows, because someone had been killed and that was more serious.
This is how the media worked as part of the counterinsurgency: first through the segmentation of the insurrection. The school children were presented as good and justified, and strictly represented by a single aesthetic, as peaceful. They did not show the students rioting. Then there were the anarchists who were taking advantage of the situation to create chaos, and theirs was an aesthetic of violence, their only activities were destructive. And finally there were immigrants, who only wanted to loot. All of these were extracted from the mass that took part in the insurrection, they were identified as separate, even as identifiable groups, and they were all assigned specific attributes.
Next, the media consistently and repeatedly claimed that the movement lacked demands. They were always talking about this lack of demands, So they placed the movement on a continuum of irrationality. It was simply an issue of rage, which the State would tolerate to a limited extent, because after all a child had been killed, but there had to be an end to it and after that things had to go back to normal. They still say that there was a lack of demands and this reduces December to a sentimental explosion. The state representative specifically instructed the media not to refer to it as a social uprising, The foreign media really portrayed the uprising as related to the economic crisis, which in reality it was not because at the time there was no real economic crisis in Greece.
Only the Left groups responded to the pressure to make demands, to dialogue, and I felt that they couldn’t handle the demands they were putting forward because even within the Left there were people who were very active and taking part in the riots-the base. So the heads of these groups were demanding to disarm the police, to lower the voting age to sixteen, for the government to resign, but they couldn't control their base, they couldn’t mobilise people for their demands.
In one of our leailets we said, you are demanding from us that we enter the logic of demands. It’s a logic of exchange, a capitalist logic, that if you meet our demands then we will give you peace, but we’ve gone beyond the time of peace.
On Thursday we learned that twenty-five police stations in Athens were attacked by students, and immigrants had conflicts with the police by themselves and attacked shops. This was crashing down every demand, the motion was spreading in many places. There were thousands of demands, not just one list.
Finally the media functioned as a force for counterinsurgency by spreading fear, They repeatedly reported rumours that a woman had burned to death in her building as a result of the riots, even that bus loads of anarchists and immigrants were travelling through the countryside to smash up all the provincial villages.
What they’re trying to say now is that it’s not the anarchists but that society as a whole is crazy it’s snapped and everyone is becoming violent and breaking the law. Today there was an interview by the president of the general union of industrialists, he’s president of the big milk-producing company and he said, look, the government is shit, it cannot control anything, and the opposition is useless. What we need is social cohesion. There has been massive propaganda against violence. Some days if you were only listening to the radio and didn’t go out in the street you would think you were in Somalia. There was a cacophony of shootings and armed guerrillas, bank robberies, rapes, an image of decay and chaos. And the ex-minister of public order, from the opposition, went in public and said that Athens has turned into Baghdad. So they’re playing on this Middle Eastern archetype of everyone on the street with bazookas. They try to put it all together, that everyone has lost it.
Crime has not gone up, just reporting of it has gone up. When Kolonaki was attacked, it was front-page news for a week, as if it were a disaster. But it had already been attacked several times before and it just got a small mention. It was obvious as well that during December they had no filter for separating things, distinguishing, as a strategy; between acceptable actions and unacceptable ones. They furiously condemned everything, even some artists going into a theatre and dropping a banner against spectators; this was denounced disproportionately as fascist, as a sacrilege, in the same way they would rant against a ministry being attacked.
I know people who were in the army and they were put on yellow alert. They said they had talked with other soldiers and if they had been sent into the streets they would have given the arms to the people and there would have been a massacre - of the police, They even distributed a text. This led to a new regulation forbidding all political texts in the military. The government could not have called in the military because they would have mutinied. The government could not control the rebellion in a military way It was a political issue, not a military one. If there was even one more death the situation would really have gone out of control and they couldn’t risk this. It already was out of control, but I mean there would have been people shooting down cops during the demonstrations. The government had internal disagreements and it was obvious. In the high ministries they were insulting each other as malakas, so the government did not have cohesion. The ruling party only had a majority of one in parliament. Both the government and the police were seen as completely illegitimate by the general population and of course there was one part that called for repression but the more realistic members of the government dominated in the end. So there was a more communicative and political resolution of the whole thing. Calling in the army would have been a great mistake for them, this would have been the worst thing they could have done. After some rioters looted bows and arrows from this weird speciality shop on Omonia the media were reporting that the demonstrators had looted an arms shop and were marching on parliament, which would have required calling in the army. Segments of the elite were testing it, to see if it would catch.
The occupation of the national TV
Vortex: A person from Athens who was already involved in the movement when the rebellion started.
NET is one of the three national TV stations. It's broadcast all over the country. What happens there, everybody sees it. And the whole thing took place on Tuesday December 16. If I remember correctly the idea was proposed by this friend who knew people working within the media industry and knew how it functioned. They know both how to use complicated equipment and also a few of them knew their way into the specific building. I’m not sure if the whole thing can be called an anarchist action because not everyone who participated was an anarchist. Most of the people were definitely libertarian, and a lot of them were artists. People who worked in film, actors, documentarians, but all of them very moved by the killing of Alexis. And some of them had only started becoming active after the killing. So we started meeting in this basement for about a week trying to organise the whole thing. It wasn’t easy because we had to be very precise with our moves. The goal was to interrupt the three o’clock news program, which is their major broadcast. Everyone is at home for the afternoon break at that time so we considered this to be the best moment. The difficulty was deciding who was going to do what, how many things we were going to do and who is going into each room. We had three main targets. One was the control room. It controls the studio, and from there you can see what’s going on inside the studio. The other target was the master room. From there if something goes wrong they can cut off the signal. And the third target was the station president’s office.
We had to be certain which room was on which floor, and some of the people who had a way in and out of the building gave us the necessary information. We made various maps on big sheets of butcher paper stuck up on the wall so we could memorise the basic plan of the building. It was vital not to look hesitant when we got there, so no one would stop us and ask us where we were going. A good map was absolutely necessary to the action. You can’t go in looking like someone who is in there for the first time. When you’re familiar with the location, you walk with certainty The psychology of the action is very important. There were some older people involved in the action and they were the most hesitant. As the day came upon us, they started doubting our chances for success, and that caused problems during the discussion because they raised stupid questions.
The three rooms were on three different floors. We had to be very precise with the timing, down to a precision of seconds, more or less. The people who entered the master room would be the first team, so that the technicians there would have no chance to switch off the signal when they found out what was going on in the studio. We said that this team should get into the master room thirty seconds or a minute before the people who entered the control room. We had decided that the people who would enter the studio would not talk, they would just hold up a couple of huge banners. The news anchor would get out of the way and all of a sudden you would see banners from inside the studio. One of them said, "Don’t just watch us. Everyone get out in the streets", and "Freedom to the Prisoners of the Insurrection", and a small one said, "Freedom to Everyone."
Both of these teams included people who knew how to use the equipment. You also had to have a person who knew how to use a TV camera. We had decided that the people holding the banners, about ten of them, would wear masks if they wanted to. But not all of them did because the people who had decided to be in front of the cameras were not hardcore anarchists, most of them were artists. Perhaps they saw it as more artistic than subversive. But in any case none of them had the aesthetic of koukoulofori, the masketeers. At first I thought it would be a good idea for everyone to mask up, but I saw that the whole action was successful and I saw that these people were sure of themselves. So you know, if you don’t mind I don’t mind. And it was a courageous act.
The third team would get into the office of the manager, with the goal of calming him down - because he has TVs inside his office and knows exactly what’s going on inside the building - and not let him call the police. This team failed. The others were very professional, but this team failed. This guy could not be calmed down, and we had decided not to use violence. He went crazy and ran out into the hall, screaming.
We didn’t go in from the main entrance because you had to leave your ID there, but there was a side entrance that they used for equipment. Because there were about fifty of us, which is a big number, we had decided that we would enter in pairs within a time period of two hours. So people started going in already from one o’clock, so we wouldn’t draw attention. We all had to be dressed well, quite formally I wore a suit, nice shoes, nice trousers. And we also said everyone should have some sort of prop with them, a folder, a CD, papers, something to signify that you’re going to deliver something at an office, that you’re there for a reason.
I was in the team that took the master room, and our team had to be quick and if need be a bit... I wouldn’t say aggressive, but we had to let them know that we knew why we were there and we weren’t joking around. So the goal was to get in and tell them to get their hands away from the control panels. There were some big guys in this team. We had to look scary I did the talking: don’t touch anything, get away from there, blah, blah, blah.
The goal was to stay on the air about five minutes, which was very ambitious. And we hoped that by that time the helicopters wouldn’t have come and we’d have enough time to leave the building. There was a big cafeteria on the first floor of the building where we would all meet afterwards and all exit the building together, making sure we weren’t leaving anyone behind. Each team was responsible for knowing if they were all there.
I got to the building around two o’clock, going in with another guy from my team.We entered through the side entrance and we went straight to the cafeteria, which we knew the location of, thanks to the maps. We already knew how to get there, which way to turn, et cetera. And by 2:30 I think everyone was there, and everyone was in the cafeteria, all pretending not to know each other. After quarter past two, it was basically only us in the cafeteria. Before that were lots of other people from the building, because it’s a big building. But we were all acting, being normal, being social. We had decided not to go in at three when the news started but to let them broadcast for ten minutes. First everyone had checked out the rooms they needed to go to be sure it was all according to the map, and then went back to the cafeteria. A lot of people were visiting the toilets because they were stressed and had to pee.
At seven or six minutes past 3:00, everyone was outside their target room. So at 3:09 I put on my gloves, because I didn’t want to leave fingerprints, and we crossed the hall, and got in. Well there was a problem, we got confused at the last second whether that room was the right one or whether it was another one, so we were a few seconds late.When we got into the master the second team had already invaded the control room, just seconds before. We were lucky because the people in the master were busy with something and they hadn’t realised it yet.I had learned professional names for the equipment so I could pretend I knew what I was talking about. What I had to say was “Nobody touches the master, keep your hands away from the PLF!"I still have no idea what a PLF is. There were only two people in there, and one of them grabbed the phone. I grabbed his arm and said, "No, you’re not making a call for the next few minutes. No one is going to get hurt, we’re only going to be here a few minutes, and then we’ll go." It was important to let them know we were friendly.
The people who were working in the control room completely freaked out when our team came in and replaced them at their seats. The director started screaming, someone had to calm her down. We didn’t stay for five minutes, in the end only two minutes or a little less, because there was another room, it turned out, that could interrupt the signal. And we hadn’t known about that. That was an element of misinformation. So after a minute and a half they put on advertisements. The lucky thing was that because we had decided to invade at ten past 3:00, they were broadcasting a live feed from the Greek Parliament where the prime minister was talking, and all of a sudden there was a fade in, fade out. One second the two pictures were together, and then the PM disappeared completely and you could only see the people with the banner.
When the commercials ended we saw from the monitors that our people were leaving the studio, so we said "thank you," and left. The whole time we didn’t use any elevators so we couldn’t be trapped in them, we took the stairs down, met in the cafeteria, and threw flyers into the air as we left. The general manager continued to freak out completely and he went live and announced that they had been attacked by a group of anonymous people.
Some of the people holding the banner were known artists. While we were leaving people were coming out of their offices. Everyone in the building has screens so they had seen what had happened. And they came out to see who we were as we were leaving. Some of them were quite happy with us. I think they might have even clapped, but I don’t remember.
Outside of the building there were two police officers in the yard. They saw us but they didn't do anything, because there were fifty of us. Someone in our group went to calm them down to make sure nothing would happen, saying that it was all over and we were leaving. One of them tried to make a joke, saying “No problem. It's good to see that you can do things without being violent." We all stayed together for a block and then we scattered.
A similar action happened in Patras. And a week before, there had been a similar proposal in an anarchist assembly and some people argued against it, not wanting to be part of the spectacle and to put ourselves between advertisements. Most of them did not favour such an action but when they saw it happening I think they changed their minds. It was a very impressive thing. Afterwards this video got replayed on all the other channels.
Call for a new international
An anonymous text posted on the internet.
Politicians and journalists brag around, trying to impose on our movement their own failing rationality: we revolt because our government is corrupted or because we’d like more of their money more of their jobs.
If we break the banks it’s because we recognise money as one of the central causes of our sadness, if we smash shop windows it’s not because life is expensive but because commodity prevents us from living at all costs. If we attack the police scum, it’s not only to avenge our dead comrades but because between this world and the one we desire, they will always be an obstacle.
We know that the time has come for us to think strategically. In this Imperial time we know that the condition for a victorious insurrection is that it spreads, at least, on a European level. These last years we've seen and we’ve learnt: The counter-summits worldwide, student and suburban riots in France, the No-TAV movement in Italy the Oaxaca commune, Montreal’s riots, the offensive defence of the Ungdomshuset squat in Copenhagen, riots against the Republican National Convention in the USA, the list goes on.
Born in the catastrophe, we’re the children of all crisis: political, social, economical, ecological. We know this world is a dead-end. You have to be crazy to cling to its ruins. You have to be wise to self-organise.
There's an obviousness in the total rejection of party politics and organisations, they’re part of the old world. We’re the spoiled children of this society and we don’t want anything from it. That’s the ultimate sin they’ll never forgive us. Behind the black masks, we are your children. And we’re getting organised.
We would not make so much effort to destroy the material structures of this world: its banks, its supermarkets, its police stations, if we didn't know that at the same time we are undermining its very metaphysic, its ideals, its ideas and its rationality.
The media would describe last week's events as an expression of nihilism. What they don’t get is that in the very process of assaulting and harassing this reality; we experience a higher form of community of sharing, a higher form of spontaneous and joyous organisation that forms the basis of a different world.
One could say our revolt finds its own limit in the very fact that it only creates pure destruction. That would be true if, beside the street fights, we hadn’t set up the necessary organisation that requires a long-term movement: canteens provided by regular looting, infirmaries to heal our own wounded, the means to print our own newspapers, our own radio. As we liberate territory from the empire of the State and its police, we have to occupy it, to fill it and to transform its uses so it can serve the movement. So the movement never stops to grow.
All over Europe, governments tremble. For sure what scares them most are not local copycat riots but the very possibility that the western youth finds common cause and rises as one to give this society its final blow.
This is a call to all those who hear it:
From Berlin to Madrid, from London to Tarnac, everything becomes possible.
Solidarity must become complicity. Confrontations have to spread. Communes need to be declared.
So that the situation never goes back to normal. So that the ideas and practices that link us to one another become actual bonds.
So that we can stay ungovernable.
A revolutionary salute to all our comrades worldwide. To all the prisoners, we’ll get you out!
In London, the response was immediate
Em: A Greek person who has been involved for years in anarchist and grassroots struggles and has lived the past four years in London.
I’ve been involved in squatting and setting up social centres, participating in local projects, housing campaigns, and more general campaigns throughout the UK. I wasn’t so much a part of the Greek community here. My political milieu was British.
In London the response to the killing of Alexis was immediate. At first it was mainly Greek people, but also some Brits and Poles. Personal connections, Greeks and others who had friends and contacts in Greece, enabled this fast response. Also the Internet and Indymedia. The first actions happened on Sunday the very next day What we could do was limited by police repression, which is very well developed in Britain. But it was also limited by the fact that some of us were already burnt out.
Our goal was to raise the political cost of what was happening in Greece.We knew what our goal was, in that sense it was clear, but in another sense it’s not so clear, not so straight-forward, because it was also an emotional response. That's an important part of it. We were reacting emotionally to what was happening in Greece. But I think we achieved our goal. Our actions made themselves felt, and they were very much appreciated in Greece. They made them feel that they weren’t alone. We should never underestimate the emotional factor. The people in Greece were not having an easy time. What was happening was exciting but it was also extremely difficult and stressful and frightening. To know that they weren’t alone, that there was support, was very important for them.
I consciously decided on the 6th of December to organise solidarity actions in London, and I stayed there until the 15th. Then I came back to Athens and stayed here until February and I decided I had to move back to Athens. The city has changed. So I went back to London and got my things and came back here. But since the 6th of December I’ve been running around constantly organising things. It’s been my entire life.
Mostly we organised protests and blockades-blockading the Greek embassy and the offices of the Greek tourist organisation. At the first official protest, Monday the 8th, five people got arrested while blockading the embassy. Two days later there was another one but no one got arrested. On Sunday the 15th of December there was a big protest in Dolston Station in North London. This was the first action in collaboration with the British anarchist scene. It was a hard thing to bring them in contact. I was one of the only ones trying to get the general anarchist movement in touch with the Greek enclave. There are only a few active Greek anarchists in London, but lots more who identify as anarchists though they aren’t active. They only show up when it’s something related to Greece.
Even the Stalinists had a protest in front of the Greek embassy which was surreal, because the day before the chief secretary of the Communist Party in Greece renounced the uprising and the violence. So I went up to them and told them to piss off.
There were other solidarity actions all over Britain-- Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh. Some of these actions exceeded what was normal for protests in Britain. Seeing what happened in Greece had a positive effect on the movement. The people felt inspired again, and empowered. The solidarity actions themselves were typical, they weren’t anything special. Sorry for being so cynical but I want to be realistic. The actions themselves weren’t so special, and they were quite small. But you could see that people were more enthusiastic. Greece helped them to reclaim a dream that they had kind of lost. It’s what happened in any other European city that is experiencing repression. They found a dream and said we can do it, they regained their confidence. And now you saw what happened in the G20 [protests in London in April, 2009, where anarchists stole some of the spotlight from the world leaders by fighting with police and smashing some banks]. They got inspired in many ways.
Many people are scared of returning to normality. I have no problem with this because what changes is the way you perceive things. Greece is a time bomb after December. Even if it doesn't happen right now, it will happen. Everyone knows that. I think it will take the police killing someone else to create another insurrection, but that could happen. I had a friend badly injured in a protest in February. They threw a stun grenade at him, it exploded on his shoulder, and it burned him badly. If it had hit him in the head he could have been killed. The police are stupid. They're very scared, but they're stupid, and violent, and they could kill someone again.
In Barcelona, we quickly organised a solidarity protest
Pere: A squatter and anarchist who participated in the solidarity protest in Barcelona on the 20th December.
A week ago, after we first heard about Greece and kept hearing about it and understood that it was real, we quickly organised a solidarity protest. With all the rage and urgency and excitement, the people managed to get past the police for the first time in a long time in this fucking city. They smashed up some luxury shops and banks, nothing heavy but better than we’ve had in a couple years, and then scattered. A couple people, I think they were from out of town and didn’t have anyone looking after them, got arrested.
On the 20th of December, the day of international solidarity we organised another protest. Seven people had been arrested in Madrid after the solidarity protest there attacked a police station and they were facing heavy charges, so this protest was for them too. About three hundred people convened in Plaça Universitat, where we always convene, and where the police are fully practiced in surrounding us and controlling us. By Plaça Catalunya the mossos started signalling their aggressive intentions and evidently no one wanted to fight. On Indymedia they’ll write about how weak the movement is, but they never come to a protest prepared to start a fight. What, this is something the magical masses initiate, some insurrection that comes about through a scientific dialectic or mystical process? The mass is just another person standing next to you, waiting for you to start something. I had brought some paint bombs, not much, but early on my compañeros ran off to avoid any inconvenience so I never had anyone to watch my back so I could throw them.
Anyway, the march started running, more or less, as the cops came up hard behind us. All they had to do was look at us like they wanted to beat us, and we dissolved. On the way a few people were causing a little damage to cash machines, spray painting a little, but it was hard to do more with the cops breathing down our necks and the fleet of a dozen riot vans behind them. At Urquinaona we hooked back left, as usual, and ended up on Passeig de Gracia, where it was easy for the police to surround us, in this case right in the middle of a big intersection. At least we were blocking up traffic?
Then one cop fell into the fountain there, got himself all wet and hurt his leg, and no one had even pushed him. He just fell in! Naturally we all started laughing our asses off, saying how stupid the cops were, congratulating Comrade Fountain. They were seething. The injured cop was helped away they waited a minute, glaring at us, and then started pushing and beating us from all sides. Anyone who got close enough felt their batons. A few of us pushed back but we paid for it in bruises. At least we didn’t let them arrest anybody; but they were mostly interested in pushing us to the side of the road. At this point there were only a hundred of us because so many people started to scatter early on. Some of those came back to watch, and at one point the police picked through the crowd and grabbed anyone they thought was an anarchist, pushed them in here with us.
The fucking cops were pushing on all sides until we were packed like sardines. I knew the paint bombs were bursting in my backpack and I just hoped the paint wouldn’t start leaking out. You could see a few people dazed, their heads bleeding, while others screamed at the cops to let an ambulance get in. They kettled us up tight for a while, maybe half an hour or more, and then let us go. But there was one injured woman, I couldn’t see so close, and they wouldn’t let the medics get close to her, so more scuffling started, someone threw a glass bottle, they attacked again, and everyone scattered through the city while they hunted us. I think a couple people got arrested. I walked all the way home to avoid using the metro, just in case, and all through the city police cars were tearing around looking for us. And we hadn’t even managed to do anything.
Many foreigners have been killed
Adams: A Sudanese refugee who runs a refugee aid centre in the Omonia neighbourhood of Athens.
I think I found out about the death of that boy Alexandros, on the TV The demonstrations were started by Greek people. As foreigners we didn’t play the main role in what happened in December. But ultimately the demonstrations were used by many people in need, people who were angry with unemployment, with not having papers, angry with the police, or just frustrated by the whole situation. So they joined the demonstrations, but for their own purposes.
In the centre of Athens there was looting everywhere. Like I said, many people were using the occasion for their own motives. Of course as foreigners we were afraid of taking part in any violent actions in a protest or another situation because we have no power here. They could find a dead body after all the riots,what’s his name? It turns out to be an immigrant and it doesn’t matter. No one would hear about it. They can kill us much easier than they can kill Greek people. Many foreigners are wanted after December. They accuse foreigners of carrying out the robberies, the looting. Many Greek citizens complained about the thieving and the arsons and property damage. The media put the blame for that on us.
The police are violent in general, all the time. Many foreigners have been killed at the borders and the asylum centres. These feelings of resentment toward police behaviour had grown very strong, so people used the occasion of the riots as an excuse. But the Greek people were making a serious revolution to change the system. Since then things have gotten better. Now the police behave better and they treat us better.
What I saw was very limited. I didn’t go out at all to the demonstrations. The streets were full of tear gas, especially in Omonia. But how I saw it, the problem occurred suddenly and from there everything happened automatically. The Greeks meant to create change, they were organised, but the foreigners just took advantage of the situation.
Since December I don’t notice any change in our relations with Greek people, four months later. I have lots of contact with humanitarian organisations, but it's all the same. And I don’t feel any difference in attitude from the Greek civilians even though the media blamed the foreigners for the looting. But in the demonstrations everyone was mixed together, so how can they say who did it?
I can’t say if other foreigners have made contact with Greek anarchists or if they came together in December. Individually of course it happened but in terms of organisational contacts, there has been nothing. And I can’t judge if Greek sympathy for foreigners has increased or not. There are many good people in Greece, but they are afraid of us, especially of us Africans. I don’t know why; maybe because we have black skin or something. But if we came near to them and talked with them it would be good. But how can we do this when we are so far apart?
Here we are refugees. We don’t know about the situation faced by the immigrants. Their problems and our problems are very different. Many refugees have no papers and they are not learning about their rights like the immigrants do. Many refugees are thinking about the problems back in their own countries. Or they are worrying about their papers. The majority of us have no papers: we only have deportation papers. Many refugees will be killed when they are sent back. The refugees have been coming to Greece more recently since about 2003, but the immigrants have been coming here for longer.
I’ve been here since September 2004. That’s when I went to the police and asked for asylum. If you’re very lucky you get a pink card which says you have requested asylum and this gives you some rights, but most of the time they refuse to give you that card or take your name. And they almost never grant asylum, even if you get a pink card.
This centre is the Association for Sudanese Refugees. The majority of us are from Darfur. We established this centre to organise ourselves and be in contact with humanitarian organisations, to make bonds with Greek people, to help each other, provide access to lawyers, medical care, aid organisations, and free food. We raise awareness for the problems faced by refugees.And we help out the newcomers when they arrive. When a new person comes, we show him where to get food. So this is the place where someone can find us, exchange ideas, understand our situation. We also have an entertainment program. You can watch TV we eat together, drink tea together, smoke nargileh. It’s social.
It’s very difficult to get into Greece and once you’re here they don’t let you go to other countries in Europe. They make you stay here. Many people are trapped, forgotten in Athens. There's no work, many people have no money no where to go, people are dying here.
And on the streets they are constantly checking papers and putting people in jail. There is a guy I know who is constantly being arrested. In the past three years he has only been in the streets for 7 months. He has no valid papers so when they find him in the streets, they arrest him and lock him up for the three months. Then he’ll get out and be on the streets for a month before they arrest him again. It’s completely crazy.
The minister wants to clean up this neighbourhood to increase tourism. So the police come here all the time. There’s no social support. The only solution they have is a police solution.
The leftists are good. They are doing things, making protests, and they cover the city with posters. But after that nothing changes. We don’t get papers, they don’t stop the deportations, they don’t let us work, they don’t follow their own laws for asylum seekers. Nothing. They’ve signed international conventions that have protocols but they never follow the protocols. The only thing they do is send the police.
Open letter from the soldiers
Statement from some anonymous Greek soldiers stating that they will refuse to repress worker and student demonstrations.
Hundreds of soldiers from the forty-two districts state that:
We refuse to become a force of terror and repression against the mobilisations; we support the struggle of the school and university students and the workers. We are soldier from all over Greece. We are soldiers who, very recently, in Hania, have been ordered to turn on and bear weapons against university students, workers and combatants in the anti-militarist movement. Soldiers who bear the weight of the reforms and "tactical manoeuvres" of the Greek army. The soldiers who live daily amongst the ideological oppression of militarism, of nationalism, of un-remunerated exploitation and submission to "our superiors".
In the army barracks, we learnt about another "isolated incident": the death, at the hands of an armed police officer, of a fifteen-year-old named Alexis. We heard it in the slogans carrying over the exterior walls of the camp like distant thunder. Weren't the deaths of three of our colleagues in August also called "isolated incidents"? Haven't they also called the deaths of each of the forty-two soldiers in the last three and a half years "isolated incidents"? We believe that Athens, Thessaloniki, and a growing number of Greek cities have become areas of social agitation, environments in which the resentment of thousands of young people, workers, and unemployed people resounds, while we are dressed in army uniforms and "working attire," guarding the camp or running errands, being servants of "our superiors." We have seen, as have university students, workers and desperately unemployed people, their "clay pots," "accidental backfirings," "bullet deflections," as well as the desperation of precarity, of exploitation, of lay-offs and of prosecutions.
We hear the rumours and insinuations of the army officials, we hear the threats of the government, made public, about the imposition of a state of emergency. We know very well what this means. We are living it through an intensification of work, and the increase of our tasks, intense conditions with a finger on the trigger.
Yesterday we received the order to take care and "keep our eyes peeled." We are asking: whom are you ordering us to be careful of?
Today we have been ordered to be prepared and on alert. We are asking: with whom do we have to be on alert? We have been ordered to be ready to bring the state of emergency into action.
There has been a distribution of arms shipments amongst certain units in Atica [where Athens is situated], accompanied by orders to use them against the civilian population in the case of threats (for example, orders were given to one unit in Menidia, close to the attacks against the Zephiro police station). There has been a distribution of bayonets to soldiers in Evros [along the Turkish border]. They are aiming to inspire fear in the demonstrators by setting out squads in the area around the army barracks.
They have moved police vehicles to army camps in Nauplia-Tripoli-Corinth for safekeeping. There was a "confrontation" on behalf of Major I. Konstantaros in the recruits' training barracks in Thiva regarding the identification of soldiers by shop-owners whose property had been damaged. there has been a distribution of plastic bullets in the Corinthian recruits' training barracks and the order to fire against citizens if they move "in a threatening manner" (against whom?).
A special unit was ordered to the statue of the "Unknown Soldier" just in front of the demonstrators on Saturday the 13th of December, and soldiers from the Nauplia recruits' training camp were put into action against a workers' demonstration. They are threatening citizens with Special-Ops units from Germany and Italy - in the role of occupying forces - thus revealing the true face of an anti-worker/authoritarian EU.
The police shoot with the objective of present and future social revolts. In order to accomplish this they are preparing the army to take on the functions of a police force and they are preparing society to accept the return of an army of Reforms' Totalitarianism. They are preparing us to oppose our friends, the people we know and our brothers and sisters. they are preparing us to oppose our past and future workmates and classmates. This series of measures shows that the leadership of the army, the police with the consent of Hinofoties (ex-member of the professional army, currently vice-interior minister, responsible for the internal "unrest"), the army headquarters, the government, the EU directives, the small shopkeeper as an angry citizen and the far-right groups are looking to use the armed forces as an occupying army (isn't it called Peace Corps when its sent to a foreign country to do exactly the same thing?) in the cities where we grew up, in our neighbourhoods, in the streets through which we've walked. The political and military leaders forget that we are part of the youth. They forget that we are made of the same stuff as the youth which is coming face to face with the bleak wasteland of reality inside and outside of a military camp. A youth which is furious, un-subjugated and, even more importantly, fearless.
We are civilians in uniform. We will not accept being turned into free tools of fear that some are trying to implant in society like a scarecrow. we will not accept being turned into a force of repression and terror. We will not oppose the people with whom we share the same fears, needs, and desires, the same common future, the same dangers and the same hopes. We refuse to take the streets, under the name of any state of emergency, against our brothers and sisters. As young people in uniform we express our solidarity with a fighting people and we state that we won't turn ourselves into pawns of a police state and of state repression.
We will never fight our own people. We will not allow, in the army corps, the imposition of a situation which brings back the "days of 1967."
The Treaty of Varkiza is broken
Eliza: An anarchist in Athens active for nearly twenty years
There’s this word in Greek, Dekemvriana. It comes from December, but it means something like "the events of December." Journalists were using this word a lot during the insurrection, even though it originally refers to December 1944, when the Communists revolted against the British-installed government. The guerrillas kicked the Nazis out of Greece after they lost at Stalingrad, so when the British arrived nearly the whole country was already liberated. But Stalin had made a deal with the West that Greece would belong to the British sphere of influence, so they instructed the KKE leadership to hand over their weapons and accept the new government. The Communists never mention this.
So in December 1944, there was a protest march by many people who didn’t know about this deal made by the leadership, and they went to Syntagma. There, British troops surrounded the square and opened fire. So the Communists started the guerilla campaign again, this time against the British occupation. The leadership of the armed group later surrendered, signing the Treaty of Varkiza - Varkiza is a suburb of Athens. And one of the popular slogans that appeared in graffiti on the walls in December was: “the treaty of Varkiza is broken!” So you see, things go in circles.
The logic of not demanding
December was not the first time we have burned them, and it was not the first time they have used these same lies. "Senseless violence!" the politician cries out, dabbing at the tears with a Hag that on one side shows the national colours and on the other the standard of all humanity. "These protesters have no demands, they are only acting out of anger," assures the Two Face, who holds a club in one hand and an olive branch in the other. The media runs up with a podium named The Middle Ground and, placing it directly between these two characters, concludes neutrally even sympathetically: "They must not know what they want. We’ll have to tell them." And a curtain flies up revealing a panel of experts, economists, sociologists, humanitarian activists, and don’t forget the fascists, and they begin to develop the lie and weave it into the most captivating shapes, but it all starts with this one premise.
The police know that we propose solutions to their violence because they use the literature seized from our homes as evidence in the trials against us. The politicians know we envision a world without their authority because we talk about it in the communiques that accompany the bombs placed outside their houses. The journalists know we criticise their control of culture and information because they fancy themselves investigators and we put these texts for free on the Internet. And what they all know is precisely what they refuse to say in those embarrassing moments when they must admit that we exist: they have no place in our future. We are going to destroy them.
So they talk about us like a rabble of confused children, hoping to deafen the people to our words. And they also hope to fool the foolish among us into translating our words into a language they can understand. The language of demands. The revolutionary dream, reduced to a few pragmatic points that might ostensibly serve as the first steps in the long march through the institutions. Snap! The trap springs shut.
Carl Schmitt, the influential German political theorist, jurist, and unrepentant Nazi, whose work was later taken up by the neoliberals at the University of Chicago, said that government was not a monopoly on violence, but a monopoly on decision. This seems true. In fact, the State permits and depends on private violence in the form of patriarchy racism, employment conditions, fascist street gangs, and so on, in order to maintain itself. What the State requires, in order to maintain power, is the prerogative to decide, in increasingly, minuscule spheres of life, what is allowed and what isn’t; to l decide the course of the country and post facto legitimate and regulate the initiatives taken by the capitalists. And when I some social power contests the reigning order, the State must be involved in the resolution. The pacifists are wrong when they say that violence is the government’s strong suit. If they ruled through violence they would never have legitimacy. In fact, the governments strong suit is communication. It is to occupy the central position, the role of mediator and protagonist, in any decision. It will make itself feared if it has to, but above all it survives by making itself heard and making itself necessary to the point where people cannot imagine a solution to a social problem that is not tailored first and foremost to the needs of State.
This is exactly why anarchists, in December and at other times, refuse to make demands. We will not dialogue with the State, we will not sit down to chat with Capital. We will not tell them what we want because they already know: we want them to die. But not only this; we want to be the ones to destroy these institutions, with the help of as great a part of society as possible, in order to win the ability to create the world anew in the interests of all its inhabitants.
It is oxymoronic to make demands of something you wish to destroy completely, because the request for change transfers agency from you to that thing that receives your demands, and the very act of communication grants it continued life. Our attacks aim to destroy authority, to open up spaces in order to recreate life, and to communicate with society. We do not wish to communicate with the State.
If a rebellion does not communicate demands, it is not because it is senseless, but on the contrary because it is intelligent. And if the people think that it is senseless, this is only because we have not succeeded in challenging the media's role as narrator, we have not distributed enough counter-information to contradict their lies.
But one day, if we do our work well, the people watching the TV will hear the commentator say: “They have no demands, they do not know what they want,” and they will only smile and think how stupid these charlatans are, playing the same old tricks year after year.
Not this history but this rage is ours
Statement from anarchists in Ankara, Turkey
Since the revolt started we have felt the rage of the comrades across the water and the continuous developments of the world we carry in our hearts. In the incoming mail we’ve learned of the devastation of the banks, the symbol of Greek capitalism. The anarchist voice rising up so near echoes in our neighbourhoods. Having taken a deep breath, we feel that our century is starting now.
After the global call to action announced on December 12 from the Athens Polytechnic Assembly we started to make our own arrangements. This week several groups told us they had heard the call, and wanted to support it and join us in the action. Dtcf Toplumsal Cinsiyet Karşıtı Platform, Ehp, Sgd, Genç-Sen, and Sdp ve Genç Kurtuluş all support the action of Ankara Anarchy Initiative and have prepared their own banners.
Youngsters practised a street theatre piece, a re-enactment of being killed by police bullets, for all their sisters and brothers, for Alexis.
We were in front of the Greek Embassy of Ankara on December 20. We went to the embassy on two city buses. The driver of one of the buses was warned and threatened by plain clothes cops at every station.And the driver changed the route. But we were ready to get around the measures taken by police in front of the embassy building and in the streets. In order to cheat our way out of the traps of the State we got off the bus two stops before our destination and started a longer march to the embassy. As we expected, we saw that the guards of capitalism were waiting with their tanks and buses - we with our flags and our banner, which stated:
“BÜTÜN DEVLETLER KATİLDİR
ΟΛΑ ΤΑ ΚΑΤΗ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΔΟΛΟΦΟNΟΙ”
We waited for the second bus. When it arrived we marched to the embassy. The police tried to prevent the march. Having approached the embassy we made our press statement with the accompaniment of our slogans, which included:
"Body of Alexis, Flame of Rage;
Body of Engin, Flame of Rage;
Body of Dilek, Flame of Rage"
"No Independence Alone, All Together or None of Us"
"A Thousand Salutes to Those Who Fell and Fight in Athens"
"Rage, Revolution, Anarchy!"
"The State Massacres!"
"All States Are Murderers!"
Athens Rage; Thessaloniki Rage; Komotini Rage; Patras Rage; Alexandropoli Rage; Crete Rage; Cyprus Rage; Istanbul Rage; Ankara Rage; Rage Everywhere; Anarchy Everywhere!
After the press statement, the young anarchists took the stage for their street theatre, They finished by shouting: “All The States Are Murderers; Rage!" Anarchists then threw bulbs filled with red paint at the embassy and shouted, “We brought you thousands of years of anger and the blood of our sisters and brothers you’ve murdered." The police got their fair share of the red paint, the representation of the blood of our murdered sisters and brothers. We frequently raised the level of tension but the guardians of capitalism didn’t dare intervene.
The action continued with a forty-five minute march to Kisilay (Ankara’s city centre). Along the march, which was accompanied by 300 riot police, we encountered many curious people who asked us questions.We received their support when we told them that we were coming from the embassy and we were marching for every single person who has been murdered by the State, and on that day actions were carried out all over the world to remember our brother Alexis who was murdered by police in Greece.
When we arrived at Kisilagg we finished the march in front of the monument of human rights by telling people about the action in front of the embassy. Then we threw the last paint bombs at the police.
Approximately one hundred anarchists in Ankara honoured the global day of action on December 20, joining people in cities all over the world.
Forgive or forget?
Viva Revolucion, Viva Anarchy!
- Ankara Anarchy Initiative
To those who rise up in Greece
The Anarchist Black Cross of Wellington, New Zealand stand in solidarity with you and support all actions you take in these difficult times.
It is horrific news to us, that police murdered a young member of the community We don’t need to mention the brutal repression that you must face when resisting this state crime and terror, only that we are aware of much that is occurring. We share the rage against the police, government, and capitalist institutions, in all nation-states, and we applaud the resistance in the streets of many Greek cities.
Nor do we need to mention the way the mainstream media has handled this, only that we are using our own channels to get the truth out, and in countering the propaganda.
From the November anniversary demo of the student uprising, the hunger strikes of thousands of prisoners in the same month, to the many stories of successful direct actions which take place throughout your country; everywhere people are inspired by the movement in Greece and it is hoped that the call for solidarity spreads widely throughout the global networks and takes many different forms, including tactical unity in revolutionary struggle in our home countries, internationally and in building relationships of permanent solidarity mutual aid, and cooperation.
There are many of us who support your struggle, even when it may not seem so obvious. It is our hope that things soon become better for all of you. That through your continued efforts, you succeed in your goals, in a permanent state of peace from prisons, police, governments, and capitalists.
Stay strong and keep up the spirit of total resistance without surrender!
ABC Wellington, New Zealand
A bedouin anytime! A citizen never
Ego Te Provoco
"Having by our late labours and hazards made it appear to the world at how high a rate we value our just freedom (...) we do now hold ourselves bound in mutual duty to each other to take the best care we can for the future, to avoid the danger of returning into a slavish condition"
– Levellers, “An agreement of the people,” 1647
Let’s look beyond the tear gas, the batons, and the riot police vans: the operation being conducted by the bosses since December 6th doesn’t comprise a mere combination of repression and propaganda; rather, it is the application of a series of methods aiming to renegotiate social peace and consensus.
From the Communist Party, which views the revolting people as puppets of Syriza (the euro-left parliamentary party) and of the CIA, all the way to Socialist Party politicians moaning that Athens resembles a city of the Eastern Bloc, what with its streets empty of consumers. From the archbishop of Thessaloniki, who begs his flock to go shopping, to the city’s international exposition offering free parking to Christmas shoppers, they all share a common goal: the return to the normality of democracy and consumption. Thus the day after the revolt, which happens to be Christmas, the demand is raised that we must celebrate at all cost: not only in order for some tills to fill up but in order for us all to return to our graves. The day after holds the demand of the living dead that nothing disturbs their eternal sleep any more. It’s a moratorium legitimising the emptiness of their spectacle-driven world, a world of quiet and peaceful lives. And the generals of this war hold no weapon more lethal than the appeal to that absolute, timeless idea: democracy.
The word democracy developing as it does ever more densely from the demagogues of calmness, aims at the social imaginary - the collective field of structuring desires and fears. Everyone knew well before the assassination of Alexis, that the oligarchy of capital had given up on trying to even seem democratic, even by bourgeois standards: economic scandals, blatant incidents of police violence, monstrous laws.Yet this fact is not, neither here nor anywhere else, worrisome to the bosses. This is precisely because the functioning of the establishment under such terms (“Is it democratic enough? Is it really democratic?") reproduces the capitalist oligarchy The same oligarchy that builds around itself a wall of scandals, regrets, resignations, demands, and reforms - preventing, in this way the questioning of (not the democratic qualities of the regime but) democracy as a system of social organising. Hence bosses can still appeal to this higher value today this axiomatic mechanism of the political, in order to bring us back to normality consensus, compromise - in order to assimilate the general spontaneous rage in the sphere of mediation, before this rage can organise its revolutionary potential. A revolution that would swoop all intermediaries and peaceful democrats - bringing along a new form of organising: the commune.
Amidst this ludicrous climate of shallow analyses the salaried officials of the psychological war point at the revolted, howling: “That’s not democratic, that ignores the rules under which our democracy functions." We are speechless in the face of what we would until recently have considered impossible. Even if having the intention to deceive, the bosses of this country have said something true: we despise democracy more than anything else in this decadent world. For what is democracy other than a system of discriminations and coercions in the service of property and privacy? And what are its rules, other than rules of negotiation of the right to own - the invisible rules of alienation? Freedom, rights, equality egalitarianism: all these dead ideological masks together cannot cover their mission: the generalisation and preservation of the social as an economic sphere, as a sphere where not only what you have produced but also what you are and what you can do are already alienated. The bourgeois, with a voice trembling from piety promise: rights, justice, equality And the revolted hear: repression, exploitation, looting.
Democracy is the political system where everyone is equal in front of the guillotine of the spectacle-product. The only problem that concerned democrats, from Cromwell to Montesquieu, is what form of property is sufficient in order for someone to be recognised as a citizen, what kind of rights and obligations guarantee that they will never understand themselves as something beyond a private citizen. Everything else is no more than adjusting details of a regime in the service of capital.
Our contempt for democracy does not derive from some sort of idealism but rather from our very material animosity for a social entity in which value and organising are centred around the product and the spectacle. The revolt was by definition also a revolt against property and alienation. Anyone that didn’t hide behind the curtains of their privacy anyone who was out on the streets, knows it only too well: shops were looted not for computers, clothes, or furniture to be resold but for the joy of destroying what alienates us: the spectacle of the product. Anyone who doesn’t understand why someone delights in the sight of a destroyed product is a merchant or a cop. The fires that warmed the bodies of the revolted in these long December nights were full of the liberated products of our toil, from the disarmed symbols of what used to be an almighty fantasy. We simply took what belonged to us and we threw it to the fire together with all its co-expressions. The grand potlatch of the past few days was also a revolt of desire against the imposed rule of scarcity. A revolt of the gift against the sovereignty of money. A revolt of the anarchy of use value against the democracy of exchange value. A revolt of spontaneous collective freedom against rationalised individual coercion.
I don't care if I don't take even one more picture, I just want to be okay with myself
Kostas Tsironis: A photojournalist who works in Athens as a freelancer for foreign press agencies.
I said I would never give this story to the international media because I got no support from them in December, but I'll speak to you. I like to speak about it person to person.
On Saturday when the murder happened I was drinking with a friend of mine, it was his name day celebration. I was a little drunk when I got home and I heard on the news that they had killed Alexis in Exarchia and there were big riots, so I took my cameras and I went outside to walk and cover it. I wasn't responsible for the coverage but I did it on my own initiative. I spent the first nights at Nomiki, which had been taken over by the demonstrators, and early in the morning I left, went home, slept a bit, sent some pictures to the newspaper I was working for, and went back onto the streets. Three o'clock was the big demo. It started at four. The demo was headed for the headquarters of the Greek police, and I was at the front.
When the police and the crowd started fighting, I wasn't wearing a gas mask so I was affected by the tear gas and I went away from the riot, back behind the police lines. I was in the flower beds puking because of the gas.
Then I stood up and I saw the first policeman holding his hand up, making like he was shooting a gun. So I took out the camera to take a picture, and I saw the gun, the real gun, that another policeman was holding. He was threatening the demonstrators. This was less than a day after Alexis was shot, and here they were drawing their guns again. They did not know I was there because I had been down below the flower beds, puking. The whole thing happened in two seconds. I held down the shutter, took about twenty pictures - this is one of those professional cameras that takes pictures very rapidly - and then I left immediately. The area is full of police, and I remember that they saw me as I was taking the pictures. I thought I had to find a way to escape the police lines and get to the demonstrators, where it was more comfortable for me because I knew I would be able to get back home and not disappear somewhere.
I did not say anything to anyone about the picture. After a quarter of an hour a lady came to me and introduced herself as a journalist from a Greek radio station, it was supposed to be the station owned by the same corporation as Eleftheros Typos, the newspaper I was working for. I did not recognise her. She asked me if I knew about a photographer who had the picture of the cop waving his gun, and I knew she was a cop.
I then asked a colleague to accompany me to my motorbike so I could leave. We went to the newspaper, I had the memory card with me, so I had to think about the situation and decide what I was going to do. I couldn't send the picture to a press agency due to my contract with Eleftheros Typos so I found the chief editor and talked to him in his office. I asked him two questions. First: "If a photojournalist has documentation, during these days with all that is happening, of a policeman pointing a gun at the demonstrators, what would you advise me to do?" He said, "This is a big story, and of course you have to publish it". So I asked him if the newspaper would publish a picture like that and he said of course, its breaking news. So I told him I had this picture, I printed some copies for him, and he told me not to tell anybody. So far I had only gone to his office. No one else knew about the photo besides me, my one colleague, the chief editor, and the police of course.
He said he'd have a meeting with the other editors of the paper and they'd talk to me later. I said, "If you don't want to publish it let me publish it somewhere else." He said, "No, you can't do that, you are working for us." So that was the first time I thought he would probably want to keep it and not publish it. After their meeting, he told me they couldn't run the photo in their Monday edition, because they were not sure it was a real gun or whether the policeman was pointing it at the demonstrators. I told him, "I was there, I saw it, I know it's a gun, I can give you a bigger print with better resolution so you can even read the guns' serial number." I gave him the print and he said, "Okay, we'll see tomorrow, we'll have to call an expert to make sure it's a gun." I left thinking that was the end of me, I'm not going to work as a photojournalist in Athens again. I did not want to hide this picture, I wanted everyone to see what was happening in Athens.
He called me at midday on Monday, while I was working, and the expert confirmed it was a gun and that you could see what type it was. And that you could see a shell casing, in other words that it was loaded. And in the last picture you could see one of the policemen is pointing at me. So the editor said it would be published on Tuesday, and told me to give the story so the captions could be written. And I left. There was rioting again, much harder than the first day.
I came back around eight o'clock in the evening and I saw the art director. He showed me the front page, and right on the cover was my picture with a caption. This was the main story for Tuesday. It continued on the inner pages. I remember it even had the exact time of the incident, down to the second, 18:36:36. I remember reading that off my camera. He asked me if I wanted to put my name below the picture. I asked him what he advised, and he said that if i didn't want to have problems with the police, I shouldn't include my name. But the police all knew who the Eleftheros Typos journalist was covering the riots.
I was editing my Monday pictures when I heard the art editor screaming. I asked him what was happening and he said the chief editor just called him up and told him to remove the picture and the whole story. This was ten at night. That's when I knew I was trapped.
Later the pictures appeared in the international press and Indymedia, and now Eleftheros Typos is suing me, saying I released the photo.
On Tuesday morning the photo was not published on the front page but it appeared in the inner pages because they knew it had already gotten out and they did not want a scandal for suppressing it. At midday they called me up and fired me, allegedly for breaking my contract. I left the equipment and left the newspaper. No one said goodbye, it was very funny, I think they were afraid. The president of the Press Photographers Union of Greece was a colleague of mine, we worked together. He was the one who was supposed to defend my rights and he did nothing. He was also the guy telling me to publish the pictures.
For me, that's when the party began. I had to think about what was happening. I was fired, but it was OK, I didn't care, because you cannot sell yourself for money or because you want to have good relations with the government. So I was free then, I could work however I wanted and publish whatever pictures I wanted. And that day an independent Internet news site, Television Without Borders, called me up for an interview. I told them the story and they published it. The next day everybody knew about the story. These were the first days of December - really mean riots and a tough situation - so I started feeling afraid for myself. What would happen with the police? I have to work with them sometimes. Sometimes I work with the demonstrators, taking pictures if they let us, but I don't like to work with the police because they hate us. I have many photos of them ready to hit us or break our cameras.
Well, once I had my camera broken by a rioter. This summer I saw him on the beach on one of the islands, and I recognised him. We were both naked. I said, "You broke my camera, you bastard!"
I was very afraid during December. I did not know what was going to happen next. Every day became more violent, and there was more police brutality. With all these stories of journalists dying and their bodies being found ten days later... I was waiting for that. You were expecting anything. We might have another murder. Or another cop might start shooting, or some protesters will take out a Kalashnikov and start shooting, which actually happened.
Around Christmas I could not log into my Gmail account. When i contacted Google they told me how to log in and change my password. They said my password had been blocked because in the previous days there had been 50,000 attempts to crack it. They said they didn't think my email had been broken into but that whoever was responsible wanted to disable my email account so I couldn't communicate through it. I was also maintaining a blog through this email, so I couldn't upload photos or communicate via email during this time.
Until I got fired I was taking pictures and thinking how I could protect myself. Once I was fired I was just living what was happening. I was part of the demos. It was my purpose to be out there every day on the street, it was something like a liberation. I had been trying to strike a balance between my eyes and the public's eyes, but after I was fired I did not have to keep this balance. I was able to take sides, to define my position.
I don't believe that if you have the camera you show the truth. you show your truth, what you believe. So I don't want to say that working as a photojournalist I show the one and only truth. I can tell the truth with my eyes, with what I see and what I do. So for me holding a camera was like participating in what was happening. I don't want to say that if the cops see me with a camera they wont gas protesters or beat protesters or take out their guns or do all the other things they do.
I don't believe that the mass media will liberate us, even though I work for them. But you know in Greece we've only had private television for twenty years, before that it was only national television. I have witnessed all this period. When the first corporate channel broadcast I was twelve years old. I've seen the way they treat news, the way the try to manipulate people. I studied sociology, and before I saw the media from the outside, as an observer. Now I work for them, and what I believe about the future is that free networks can spread news and information, and this happened in December in Athens. If there is a possibility for real news to spread around, this should be the work of the free networks and not the work of the big news corporations. But in this specific circumstance, the way the picture got out was through AP and AFP. In this case, it was good that the international media published the picture. But I can still criticise the way that they work, especially in circumstances like Iraq, with embedded reporters. For example AFP spread my photo worldwide, but they did not announce worldwide that I was fired. They had to keep a balance. I don't believe mass media will change the way we live for the better.
The most interesting part of the story is not about taking the picture or how they fired me, the interesting thing is what happened afterwards, when the police called me to testify and I went to the headquarters of the MAT because they were conducting an investigation into who pulled the gun. They called me up, I went there, I saw two fat policemen sitting there, and they said, "Ah, I know you, I've seen you at demonstrations." They offered me coffee, and their first question was, "How did you make this picture, how did you manipulate the image?" They wanted to make the investigation in order to close it. They did not ask for pictures because in the pictures you see the exact number of the policeman on his helmet and they did not want to know who it was. They took it easy on me because they didn't want to make a real investigation. After two hours of writing and erasing, they asked me to swear on the bible. That's what the policemen regularly do but I was not obligated to so I refused.
I left the building but they had forgotten to ask me to sign my statement. Now, while I was inside the building they were calling me by a fake name to protect my identity. But as I was leaving, I was in the street and there were dozens of riot police getting ready to board their bus and got to where the riots were happening. So I was waiting among them, and one of the policemen came out yelling my name, "You forgot to sign your declaration!" in front of all these armed riot cops who knew the name. And he brought me the paper to sign the street. He gave me a pen, took a riot shield for me to write on, to use as a hard surface, and I signed it against the shield. I wished I had a picture of that, for myself. In any case, they identified me to all these riot cops by calling me by my real name, as though to say "Now you'll recognise him in the streets."
Of course the police knew me from the past. Two years ago, the first week I went to work for Eleftheros Typos, was during the student movement, 2006-2007. One day outside the Polytechnic I took a picture of a rioter throwing a Molotov that exploded in the air. He was in motion so his face was blurred and therefore he could not be identified. It was a very nice picture. At the newspaper they said, "Oh, what an amazing picture, congratulations, we'll put it on the front page." I wondered what was going on, because it was just a picture of a guy throwing a Molotov. Anyways, they published it on the front page, just like they said. Two months later, May 2, I was in the office the day after covering the First of May, and the phone rang. It was a policeman asking to speak with me. They said they wanted to show me some pictures and asked if they could come. I said, "Do what you want." They must have been outside the building because five minutes later two guys come up. They showed me the front page from two months ago, and said they were conducting an investigation and wanted to know if I had another frame where it was possible to make out the rioter's face, or his belt, or the type of shoes he was wearing, or anything that would help them arrest this guy. I said, "You're joking, coming to the newspaper asking for this. that's not my job."
In the meantime, I was looking for other people to be witnesses. The chief editor, a different guy than the one in December, came in and asked what was happening. I told him, and he kicked them out and the next day published it in the news that two policemen came to ask for pictures to make an arrest and we kicked them out. We don't give pictures to police. The background to all this is important. Eleftheros Typos was a hardcore right wing newspaper when Iana Agelopoulos bought it. She's the rich person who brought the Olympics here, she was on the organising committee. So she wanted to give the newspaper a democratic face. What happened with the policemen was a very good opportunity for them to show that they were not the same newspaper as in the past. It's interesting to see how the editors and owners of the news use the news to show what they want, to give themselves a democratic profile, and other times they cover it up to protect government interests.
In December many left wing journalists from left wing newspapers told me, "Come on Kostas, this is not a big story, who do you think you are, Che Guevara? You have to talk to the mainstream media about this story, and not talk on the internet about these things."
I don't care if I don't take even one more picture, I don't care if they kick me out, I just want to be OK with myself. I had an opportunity once in a lifetime to say that, and I did. If I had hidden the picture I could have made a lot of money, getting paid not to publish it.
I'm also the only photographer who has photos of one of the immigrant detention centres. Previously I had tried all the legal means to get photos of a detention centre and I never could. But one day I was invited to take pictures of a new detention facility on one of the islands. I wondered what was going on. The first guard we met there tried to block our entry, and then the person accompanying me took out his phone and said, "I can call up the ministry right now and next week you won't be working here anymore." So the guard let us through. It was all very strange. I had half an hour to take pictures. It was a newly constructed camp, like Guantanamo, with three policemen guarding 600 immigrants. Everything was electronic.
The story came out on Tuesday, and on Monday, the day before, Greece got a fine from the EU for one million Euros a day for bad conditions in the camps. Then I realised, "Oh, that's what I was doing there." To show that it was very clean, state of the art, and the prisoners have telephones and everything. Because the government already knew it would get the fine they wanted to generate some good news coverage.
The funniest day in December was about ten days after I was fired. I was in a bloc... I don't want to say "black bloc," but... it was like a black bloc. I was taking pictures and one of the protesters came to me and told me to leave because they didn't know if I was a policeman. I laughed, but I did not want to say I was that famous photojournalist, so I left. And as I was leaving I heard them shout a slogan, the same people who had just kicked me out. "It was unjust to fire Kostas Tsironis, Cops, Pigs, Killers!", which rhymes in Greek. Then the next line was, "We're going to hire Kostas Tsironis, Batsi, Gourounya, Dolofoni!" I didn't go back to let them know it was me, because I was laughing so hard. I thought that even if I give up my camera tomorrow, its okay, I've done my life's work now.
Another funny moment from December: one day there was a cordon of police outside Parliament, facing off with demonstrators. One demonstrator goes up to give the police flowers, and the media all swarm in to take the picture. But the cop refused to take the flower. So the police chief came up to him and said under his breath to take the damn flower, and the policeman takes it, and in that one moment when all the photographers are snapping away at the flower in his hand, he lets the flower drop. He was so confused. There were 2,000 demonstrators waiting to attack, all these journalists like hunters taking a picture when they give him a flower. Its schizophrenic.
I spent New Year's Eve outside the prison. There was a protest. I was there to cover it in case something happened, but for me it was also like participating. And then December ended, well for the media it ended but I don't believe it has ended. December was like a small child being ignored by everyone as they sit around the table, and this was the moment when the child shouts, "I am here, you have to respect me." We are here, you can rob us with credit cards, this economic crisis, you can underpay us, but you cannot kill us, we are here. And they get afraid of that, and you could see that they got afraid. Also the policemen. I don't hate the policemen, I don't want to say that all the police are bad, but policemen in December were afraid. I think that for one moment they thought that the whole society was against them.
In December I got a network of support, friends from school I had lost contact with who got in touch with me and were talking about what had happened. There were people all around me who felt the same way about things, who felt that it was important, so this showed me I was not wrong, and I could go back out into the streets. After I got fired the first thing that came to me was fear, but after I got all this support I was not afraid, I knew it was okay. My best friend told me, "Don't be afraid, this is our story."
Journal entry of one of the insurrectionists
In trying to write a quick, retrospective chronicle of what I lived through from the 6th of December until today Christmas Day of 2008, it is certain that I have forgotten and omitted a lot. I don’t know if the insurrection is continuing or not, although it looks like it has calmed down. It is certain, however, that those of us who lived those moments have changed. We have been transformed forever. The ferocity of our attacks in the city and on the temples of the commodities, the battles with those who stand as an obstacle in our attempt to destroy authority and its symbols, the joy of razing everything that stands in our way the moment we're not thinking but acting, will be engraved in my memory forever. As will be the courage of my friends and comrades who showed more bravery and decisiveness than I did by staying for eighteen consecutive days inside the Polytechnic. The insurrection is not a utopia, viva la anarquia!