Watching Oppression Burn: Across Greece, Across Europe

Posted on December 8, 2008 by

Greek demonstrators stand on the balcony of the Greek consulate in Berlin on December 8, 2008

Some media are calling these “riots” by “extremists,” while others insist on speaking of “self-styled anarchists” (as opposed to officially incorporated and state-recognized anarchists?) — I prefer to see these events as a transnational festival of insurgence that targets some of those insititutions that embody and breed violence locally and internationally: the police, the state, and transnational capital. Internationally, a wikipedia page on the current Greek riots has already gone up, while the Greek protest spreads to Berlin and London, and The Telegraph warns investors that they are “wrong to ignore the Greek riots”:

That may sound like a little local difficulty. But the tensions created by unemployment, marginalised youth and incompetent governments are far from exclusively Hellenic….

and this gem of incisive analysis, there is a “social risk” to the inequality and social injustices of capitalism,

…Events in Pakistan and India have brought geopolitical risk back onto investor’s radar screens. They should now also be thinking about social risk.

Anrachist protesters at the Greek Embassy in London
Anarchist protesters at the Greek Embassy in London

The events, which were “sparked” by the police shooting to death 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Exarchia, Athens, on Saturday, December 6, then erupted into full scale rioting in Athens, across Greece with at least 11 cities seeing protests and several schools and at least two universities taken over, and has now moved into London and Berlin where Greek diplomatic missions have been the targets of capture by protesters. Anarchists have been at the forefront of this action.

The government of the right wing New Democracy Party, under Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, is in jeopardy. Like its Conservative counterpart in Canada, it has barely been able to keep a grip on power (the Canadian government has a minority of seats in parliament, while the Greek government has a one seat majority), and has also been pursuing neoliberal policies that have deepened inequality. What seemed to be provoked by what even the Greek interior minister believes was an unjustified shooting of a youth, has mushroomed into a large scale social protest.

According to The Guardian, events planned for today and later this week include:

The Greek Communist party announces a mass rally in central Athens for tonight and the socialist Pasok opposition calls for peaceful mass demonstrations. University professors start a three-day walkout and many school students stay away from class in protest.

Cars and pedestrians return to the streets of Athens as Greeks go back to work, but with a 24-hour general strike scheduled for Wednesday against pension reforms and the government’s economic policies, many Greeks fear the demonstrations could last for days.

See the timeline of events on The Guardian.

More news from The Guardian on this, the third day of protests.

See also “Anarchists’ Fury Fuels Greek Riots,” The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 8.

See the impressive photo gallery of the protests on the Sky News website.


December 8

ITN News: “
Protestors have battled with police in Patras, angry after a 15-year-old boy was shot dead on Saturday night”

December 8

ITN News: “More riots planned in Greece…Protests are continuing in Greece after a 15-year-old was fatally shot by police at the weekend.”

December 7


Students riot in Piraeus

Students riot in Piraeus, 2


Where I am writing from, in Montreal, a similar police shooting of a 17-year-old boy, Freddy Villanueva, in a predominantly immigrant neighbourhood with many Latin American and Caribbean families, also led to violent protests against police, with riots and the torching of police cars and businesses on August 9 (see the photo gallery). That case also continues to be at the centre of controversy, with no plausible or acceptable answers provided by the Montreal police as to why one of its men murdered a young and unarmed boy at close range. Indeed, police brutality is itself the target of annual demonstrations by students and others, and ironically sometimes the police show up to prove the point made by the protesters. Everywhere, as economic crisis deepens and political crises erupt, we will see the true face of the police state that is the modern nation state.

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