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.