Greek riots eyewitness reports - 09 December 2008

Greek riots eyewitness reports - 09 December 2008

Spotted updates and accounts from day 4 of the rioting in Greece.

Updates from Athens and Patras 9:07 pm

PATRAS

CONFIRMED: The anarchist block was attacked and chased by riot police and fascists. Demonstrators found shelter in friendly flats in groups of tens and twenties; fascists and undercover cops attacked them from the streets, smashing up windows.

UNCONFIRMED: It is rumored that the fascists were transported from Athens and provided with tear gas by the police.

ATHENS

Heavy clashes with the police outside the NTUA (National Technical University of Athens) continue. The situation at the Economics University is calm.

8:01 pm Athens
Police confirm shots being fired in Palaio Faliro, claiming only one shot was fired. Residents have found at least 7 bullets. The situation outside the two campuses in Athens remains very tense.

18.52 ATHENS: “These are Alexis’ nights”
UPDATE 18.58: POLICE SHOOT TENS OF SHOTS AGAINST THE STUDENTS IN PALAIO FALIRO – CONFIRMED.

A short eye-witness report

Daytime in Athens was relatively calm. High school students attacked, once again, the riot police units outside the parliament on Syntagma Square. Eksarhia, through which we walked during the day, resembled a battlefield in limbo: burnt cars blocking off its main streets; Stournari Ave is completely smashed up, barricades constantly burning across it.

Most groups have retreated in the universities (NTUA and the University of Economics). Assemblies were held there during the day, to plan out the next few days. However – a group of up to 400 people is still in the southern suburb of Palaio Faliro, where Alexis’ funeral was held this morning. They are quite literally rioting their way into the city centre. There, it is assumed that they will try to join either the occupations of the NTUA or the University of Economics.

The breaking news is that the police have shot at least ten times against demonstrators in Palaio Faliro. Meanwhile, at the University of Economics, at least four units of the riot police are encircling the campus and trying to push the demonstrators inside.

A beautiful slogan is echoing across the city: “ο λαός θα πεί την τελευταία λέξη/ αυτές οι νύχτες είναι του αλέξη” - “the people will have the last word/ these are Alexis’ nights”.

*this is the last report for a few hours - need to go back on the streets! will send more info as soon as that is possible*

18.19 PATRAS
An eyewitness report from Patras, over the phone: Over 1,000 people are on the streets - effectively in control of the centre of the city. Many banks are smashed - at least 6 or 7 so far. The central commercial street of Agiou Nikolaou is completely blocked off with barricades.

UPDATE Mainstream media report that the demonstrators are attacked by so-called “concerned citizens” - enraged shopkeepers and others. This is UNCONFIRMED.

And so it begins
As of today, this blog will be hosting eye witness reports from Athens (where the author of the text below will be based), Thessaloniki and Patras. We will be posting a combination of short (transmitted via mobile phones) and longer reports – these written only when time allows. We are also working on an online map of the Athens riots, to try and mark the series of events and make it easier for non-Greek readers to put the events in context.

A cab spinning to Belgrade airport in the early morning hours. The driver, dropping the usual “serbo-greek” friendship clichés, is trying to communicate his amazement at what’s happening “down there”. I haven’t really got much of a clue myself. I am trying to put my thoughts together. The hurried-up meeting in Zagreb, the topic that immediately shifted (how could it not?) to the situation in Athens. The midnight train, this spinning cab trying to catch the first flight out. Just had to. “I’m coming as soon as I can”. “Yes, you should”. “You have no idea what is going on, there is simply no way to describe it”. “Every single, and I mean every single shop in the centre of Athens is damaged or destroyed”. “It is war, don’t you see? This is war”.
And so it begins. The biggest string of riots the country has seen in its post-dictatorship (1974) era. Talking heads on TV screens are completely freaking out. “What would the rest of the world say?” Endlessly shifting between the reaction of international media and the damage inflicted by the riots to the christmas shopping trade. The hanging threat of a declaration of a state of emergency. Government officials, for now, deny this is a possibility. But who can tell? No-one can; no-one has any way to predict what can happen from here on. Even for Greece, a country with high levels of violence in political demonstrations, this is terra incognita. No-one has been here before. No-one has come straight from three days of unprecedented rioting onto a fourth one (Tuesday, the day of Alexandros’ funeral) and a fifth one that is sure to follow on Wednesday, the day of the general strike. And no-one can possibly imagine just how things will calm down after that. The masses on the streets keep breaking through an ever-increasingly violent police: Students are injured inside the university of Thessaloniki, shot at with rubber bullets. In Athens, riot police beat senseless another 15-year old boy in front of shocked passers-by begging them to stop. And yet, the police have already lost control. Trapped between trying to avoid a second (surely catastrophic) death yet equipped with the single technique they possess in handling the demonstrators – sheer violence. The government, a sorry get-together of more talking heads on the TV, locked up in meeting rooms, one emergency cabinet meeting after the other. A dead government standing. The question is not if – the question is just about how it will fall.
On the other end of the line is a friend from Eksarhia. “I could not believe what I saw. Every single… Every single shop, every single traffic light, across the whole of the centre – all smashed up, burnt. I just can’t believe it”. In Patras, the furious demonstrators’ block besieged the main police station only hours after the assassination. The first five arrests. The following day, a well-known local poet, now in his fifties, walked up to the police station, alone. He calmly opened his bag and, one after the other, he lit and threw the molotov cocktails he had in his bag. A new form of poetry?
The plane is descending into Athens. It is Tuesday, December 9th, the day of Alexandros’ funeral and only a few hours away from the general strike. Yet at a few thousand feet from the ground, things seem pretty normal. I am coming home. Or am I?

8:44 Alexandros’ funeral and fresh demonstrations across the country
Alexandros’ funeral will take place at 3pm today (Athens time, i.e. GMT+2) at the cemetery of the southern suburb of Palaio Faliro, in Athens. Just like with the assassination of 15-year old Michalis Kaltezas by the police in 1985, it is expected that the funeral will turn into an anti-police protest. There is no public mass-callout for it, but people will be making their way there in large numbers.

Demonstrations have been called for this morning in cities across the country, including Thessaloniki, Chalkida, Aigion, Kozani, Mytilini and Patras.This is all ahead of tomorrow’s general strike, when demonstrations will be taking place in all major cities.

Reports from the funeral and from the demos across the country will be uploaded here as soon as this becomes possible.

Taken from live updates posted to http://www.occupiedlondon.org/blog/