A Month of Ecological, Prisoner, and Solidarity Struggles in Greece
While an uprising against the white supremacist violence of police unfolds in the United States, a protracted struggle continues in Greece, where the far-right New Democracy government is trying to suppress a longstanding culture of resistance. In the following report, we review anti-authoritarian movements across Greece—around prisons, ecology, autonomous living and organizing spaces, and other issues—including expressions of solidarity with the uprising in the US.
Attacks on Organizing and Living Spaces
COVID-19 has all but disappeared from day-to-day discussion in Greece. Bars are open, shops are open, and rampant opportunism and repression of marginalized people and revolutionary movements remains the primary focus of the New Democracy regime.
Our last report was completed just hours before one of the first open assemblies was called at the previously occupied “Gini” at the Polytechnio school in Exarchia. While universities remain closed across Greece, the Gini building at the Polytechnio has long been an autonomous space used by the broader anarchist movement for assemblies and organizing. The first people to arrive at the open assembly were detained and brought to the police precinct for questioning. COVID-19 offers the state and the university administration a pretext to try to take back the occupied building at the Polytechnio and to eradicate the tradition of universities serving as a safe haven for revolutionary organizing in Greece. Blocking access to the Gini bulding represents a direct assault on our movement’s ability to gather and organize. The Polytechnio in Exarchia is the university campus at which the anarchist movement established a crucial foothold in Greece after the student uprising against the Junta in the early 1970s, during which several students were murdered by the dictatorship before its transition into what is now known as New Democracy.
Alongside these efforts to use the closing of schools to wage war on the movements that have organized within them, the espiv.net servers housed at the Panteion University in Athens have been shut down by the decision of a board director of the school who claimed they were being used for electronic piracy. It is not surprising that this would occur after New Democracy formally eliminated the university asylum policy. The espiv.net servers hosted hundreds of projects, websites, and communication platforms.
Just one day after the “re-opening” of much of Greece, police raided a squat in Exarchia that housed over fifty refugees including many children. Refugees in the squat were supposedly placed in various detention centers and refugee camps—but in fact, many simply ended up homeless. New Democracy is intent on maintaining its xenophobic platform of repression and torture against non-Greeks and refugees. Immediately afterwards, a demonstration against the eviction drew many people into the streets of Exarchia. Many squats persist, despite the government declaring that it would evict all of them in December 2019. However, repression is ongoing and may continue until our movements have nowhere to organize.
Conspiracy and Economy
Just like the right wing in the US, far-right Christian groups in Greece have fixated obsessively on COVID-19. Fascistic groups are beginning a new push in the name of God and economy to deprioritize the health and safety of the vulnerable, holding demonstrations claiming that COVID-19 is a conspiracy involving 5G and George Soros. At the same time, the New Democracy administration has declared that Greece will be open to the world in a desperate attempt to generate money for the economy. No quarantine, no testing—anyone who can bring tourist dollars to Greece this summer is welcome to spread the virus however they like. After one demonstration involving these conspiracy theorists, anti-fascists beat up two of them. These groups seem to be an extension of the fascist-controlled anti-Macedonia protests that took place in recent years.
In addition to prioritizing tourist money over the health of the vulnerable, the new government is pushing forward its campaign to pillage the land. Village communities across Greece are threatened by various projects including mining, the plundering of natural resources such as drinking water, and the construction of so-called green energy projects. In the Agrafa mountains near Trikala in central Greece, in the islands of Tinos and Skyros, and elsewhere around the country, people are organizing against wind energy parks. Environmental struggles like this have recently been gaining steam in Greece and these struggles will reach a critical juncture in the near future.
In Volos, ecological organizing has focused on organizing against a large cement factory (AGET-Lafarge) that burns waste for fuel and government plans to build a new SRF (solid recovered fuel) factory. The SRF factory is supposed to collect plastic waste and then transfer it to other factories (such as AGET-Lafarge) for burning. The local movement has been fighting against these projects since 2017; it is diverse, involving everyone from social democrats and labor unions to anarchist assemblies and occupations.
This year on June 13, the second major demonstration took place against these projects, drawing approximately 3000 participants including a black bloc contingent. The demonstration stopped in front of the main gate of the factory where many police stood guard. When the protestors attempted to hang a banner on the gate of the factory, the police violently attacked the demonstration, hitting many people with clubs and shooting tear gas and flash-bang grenades into the crowd. The resulting conflict continued until 10 pm. As a consequence, thirteen people were detained; two were arrested and are facing charges.
During this conflict, the local chief of police was beaten by members of the black bloc in front of the factory gates. Later on the same night, approximately 100 people gathered in front of the local police headquarters in solidarity with the arrestees; riot police attacked this crowd as well. The next day, on June 14, when people gathered outside the local court in solidarity with the arrestees, police yet again attacked the crowd with tear gas and flash-bang grenades. One participant in this demonstration was beaten badly by police, who left him on the side of the road outside the police headquarters with broken ribs. As of our last news from Volos, he remained at the local hospital recovering from his injuries.
Most of the organizations that participated in these events wrote statements against the police repression proclaiming solidarity with the ecological struggle against AGET-Lafarge’s activities and the construction of the SRF factory. The arrestees have been released but face charges for which they will return to court in October.
Less than 10 kilometers away, in Stagiates, a small village in the Pelion mountains, residents have created an autonomous assembly to organize against attempts to privatize the water.
This struggle has been ongoing for over five years. On June 5, the mayor of Volos, who is known for mafia associations, appeared in the square of Stagiates with police forces and corporate media reporters to invade all the municipal buildings—including the local library and school—where the locals hold events and assemblies. He threw away their belongings and changed the locks to prevent further usage by the community. His actions sparked an angry response from the locals.
On April 9, in response to the death of a prisoner—most likely caused by COVID-19—a courageous uprising broke out at the women’s prison of Eleonas demanding more safety measures against the virus inside Greek prisons. The state has taken disciplinary measures against at least 11 women since then while refusing to make any changes to the awful conditions and poor hygiene in the prison, communicating a new will to heighten brutality and repression behind bars.
In other prisoner news, Vassilis Dimakis, the anarchist prisoner who is conducting a long hunger strike in order to demand the right to continue his studies behind bars, has been segregated from other prisoners in an attempt to silence him and break his spirit. Solidarity efforts supporting him have been strong and he continues his courageous struggle inside the prison.
In the early hours of of May 27, in Thessaloniki, Greece, two anarchists were arrested, allegedly in response to an attempt to place an explosive device at the house of a former member of New Democracy, the current president of the Deposit and Loans Fund, Dimitris Stamatis. Greek corporate media claims that one comrade was observed by police watching the politician’s residence, while another was allegedly caught trying to plant the devices. One was arrested immediately; the other, some hours later while riding his bicycle. After the arrests, police raided one arrestee’s home as well as various other homes of alleged anarchists throughout the city. They used this as an opportunity to raid four squats in the Ano Poli area of Thessaloniki, briefly arresting ten people.
The two anarchists are accused of multiple felonies including criminal association, attempted bombing, attempted arson, possession and manufacturing of explosive material that could pose a danger to human beings, violating Greek arms laws, and resisting authority. Following a court appearance on June 1, they were released from pre-trial detention on the conditions that they report to the police station three times per month, are forbidden to travel outside of Greece, and pay a bail of 20,000 euros by June 15. People organized solidarity events at a rapid pace in order to meet the financial demands of the court, rapidly exceeding the needed amount in a remarkable display of solidarity. Comrades now encourage people to donate to Tameio or to bail funds and anti-repression efforts in the US.
Solidarity with the Uprising in Minneapolis
Greece has seen a variety of efforts expressing solidarity with the insurrection in the United States. Anarchists have carried out banner drops and put up huge graffiti installations across mainland Greece and its islands while organizing educational events to help people understand the complicated political context in the US. Solidarity demonstrations have occurred in Thessaloniki and elsewhere around the country. The most notable event involved 3000 people marching from the Greek parliament to the US embassy. Upon arriving at the embassy, they threw stones and Molotov cocktails against the riot police protecting the building. The police responded with tear gas as the demonstration continued marching away from the embassy. Small clashes took place; various small attacks also occurred in the nearby upscale neighborhood of Kolonaki.
Humiliated by the videos of Molotovs hitting them outside the US embassy, police reacted by beating and arresting demonstrators at random. Some arrests took place. The trials are pending.
Another solidarity action supporting the insurrection in the US took place on June 12 in the Nea Ionia neighborhood of Athens. Afterwards, a communiqué and video appeared claiming responsibility for an attack in which multiple Molotov cocktails were hurled at a police station. The individuals all escaped, while the police officer standing guard fled in fear. The action was claimed anonymously by a group calling itself the “George Floyd Revenge Unit.” The act was declared to be a gesture supporting the insurrection against white supremacy and expressing solidarity with all anarchist prisoners. An excerpt from the communiqué reads as follows:
We took this action inspired by the events in the US and in revenge for George Floyd. We took this action in solidarity with the imprisoned throughout the world and in conjunction with the three days of international solidarity with the imprisoned. We must make them think twice before they take our lives. Hopefully, we can build the power to make it impossible for them to.
For Black Liberation! Death to the State! Attack the Police! Destroy the System! Loot the World!
-George Floyd Revenge Unit
Over the past few months, the union of delivery workers have repeatedly held motorcycle parades to demand more protections and an increase in pay. They expressed these demands more fiercely as the pandemic saw these workers forced to run new health risks for their exploiters’ profits without any additional compensation. For some time, these demonstrations had taken place without serious repercussions; yet on June 11, a demonstration of delivery workers experienced unprecedented repression. As soon as they assembled, the demonstration of about 50 workers found themselves surrounded by police. The workers refused to identify themselves or be intimidated into silence; the police arrested every single participant in the demonstration, using a kettling technique rarely seen before in Greece. They forced all the workers to abandon their vehicles, bringing them to jail.
This is a heinous assault on workers who were deemed “essential” during the lockdown in Greece. It is also a statement by the state that they intend to employ more repressive measures against demonstrators from here on—certainly a gamble, in a time when self-defense against state violence is becoming commonplace all around the world.
The neighborhood of Exarchia itself has experienced some relief from police pressure as the re-opening of businesses has brought people back to the neighborhood, potentially deterring local police from public displays of brutality. However, police continue to patrol the square of Exarchia, frequently raiding it and demanding that those present show identification. The Delta police unit continues to roam Exarchia and other neighborhoods that young people previously experienced as safe places to gather. They wander at random, intimidating non-white individuals, harassing and searching people, aggressively sexually harassing women. Most likely, these actions are intended to recapture public spaces that youth have taken over during the lockdown, returning control of them to the bars and restaurants that occupy the sidewalks and demand that young people pay for the privilege of gathering outside. Following demonstrations in Athens after a huge assault on a public space gathering in Kipseli in May, riots broke out in Thessaloniki when police tear gassed and beat young people for hanging out in a public square.
The movement in Greece refuses to back down even as the government does everything in its power to plunder the land, sabotage our organizing efforts, and distract society from the obvious economic crisis looming in the immediate future. Actions continue to take place every day and we remain ungovernable. Solidarity to everyone fighting white supremacy and state power in the United States and all around the world.