I ran to the Polytechnic

23.10: A person involved in the anarchist movement for some years.

Submitted by Uncreative on December 18, 2010

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.