Vortex: A person from Athens who was already involved in the movement when the rebellion started
That was the craziest moment of all December for me
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.