Greek Fire Continues…

December 16, 2008

This picture shows the transition from a speech by Greek PM Kostas Karamanlis to a group of hooded young protesters who occupied the studio of state broadcaster NET today, AFP/Getty

This picture shows the transition from a speech by Greek PM Kostas Karamanlis to a group of hooded young protesters who occupied the studio of state broadcaster NET today, AFP/Getty

More news from Greece:

Protesters occupied a studio at the state broadcaster, NET, interrupting a news bulletin by holding up banners calling for mass participation in the protests which have convulsed Greece since the shooting of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, 15, in Athens on Dec 6.

Footage of a speech by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was suddenly replaced by students who held up banners which read: “Stop watching, get out onto the streets,” and “Free everyone who has been arrested.”

The TV station claimed the students had infiltrated the station earlier in the day by pretending to be visitors and then threatened staff, demanding to be put on air.

The government of Kostas Karamanlis is treading on thin ice, as Greece enters its tenth straight day of protests. The protests, which were sparked by the killing of a 15 year-old boy by Athens police, have brought university students, high schools students and workers together on the streets.

The PM has been reduced to pleading on air for time to pacify the situation, and is blaming the national debt for his inability to alleviate rising levels of poverty.

When protests last into their second week, you know that they have both mass popular backing and staying power. They are much more likely to lead to real political change. This wave of protests, which are as much against unemployment and poverty as they are about police brutality, show no signs of letting up.

The Confederation of Greek Workers has been publicly predicting 100,000 job losses in the new year, and is seeking to raise huge crowds, while the group of activists which stormed the studios of NET put out a stunning call for popular mobilization, as described above.

It’s an extraordinary situation which brings so many different currents of rage and hope together.

One of those is the cause of immigrant communities in Greece. An eloquent statement of commitment from a group of Albanian immigrants has been circulating on the streets cries that:

Despite the struggles we have taken on during all these years we never managed to achieve such a mass response like this one. Now is time for the street to talk: The deafening scream heard is for the 18 years of violence, repression, exploitation and humiliation. These days are ours, too.

Meanwhile, Indymedia UK lists solidarity actions in Argentina, Spain (Barcelona and Murcia), Portugal; one is scheduled for Pamplona on Saturday while solidarity actions have also taken place in London (on numerous occasions), Newcastle, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, Cardiff and Birmingham in the UK as well as Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, Cologne and Bremen in Germany. Italian cities have hosted similar actions.

One of the best actions I can see occured at a football match in Germany between FC Chemnitz and 1 FC Magdeburg. Fans from the “ultras” supporters group held banners aloft – one in Greek – urging solidarity with protests against police repression and, in particular, violence against ethnic minorities:

Indymedia reports that “One banner protests against the brutal police murder of Ouri Jaloh, african migrant gagged and burned alive in a police cell in the German town of Dessau in 2005. A court found the police not guilty last week.”

Within a week, the actions of Greek anarchists in responding to one instance of police brutality have generated an international movement – one that is still small, but one that is capturing the imagination of thousands.

This has had some leaders worried that a “contagion” like pattern could emerge, as well they might at a time of economic calamity, popular hatred of elites and ongoing war.

The French government has reportedly dropped a proposal for secondary school reform, citing worries over student militancy. As Education Minister Xavier Darcos put it, “the climate is not conducive to serene dialogue. It’s not a big deal to push it back by a year.”

The Telegraph newspaper comments that “the Elysée [palace] feared pupil protests could snowball into copycat riots like those seen in Greece over the past ten days…School protests are notoriously difficult to predict or control in France.”

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