(article written by an Occupied London author for our friends at Last Hours, on the eve of tomorrow’s general strike. Continuous updates and photos, on both websites, tomorrow!)
It is early in the morning of Tuesday, March 9th. Bemused audiences tuned in to an Athens news station to listen to an evidently uncomfortable police spokesperson. How could he not be? He must explain a rather embarrassing incident: days earlier, on March 5th, the police had tear-gassed Manolis Glezos in the face for trying to prevent a youth’s brutal arrest [photo]. Glezos is 88 years old today; it was almost 70 years ago, on May 30 1941, in Nazi-occupied Athens that he and Apostolos Santas climbed up the Acropolis and tore down the Swastika – an action for which he was arrested and tortured the following year.
Trying to justify the police’s action and to show that things must stay under control at any cost, the spokesperson made quite a revealing statement: “if the local police fail at their task”, he claimed, “the EU and the Greek government are ready to dispatch a 7,000-strong European police force to repress what might seem like an upcoming revolt”. “Imagine it!”, he added, “how would it feel if a foreign policeman was beating you up in the streets of Athens?” A funny question, that one. You would imagine police baton blows feel similar regardless of the passports of those holding them. Whether or not his statement was a slip-of-tongue, it definitely seems to hold some validity: a supra-national police force, the “European Gendarmerie Force” (EGF) does exists already and is prepared to take operations in countries where local governments invite it [http://www.statewatch.org/news/2007/oct/eu-gendarmerie-treaty-sept-2007.pdf]. The Greek government have so far declined to answer questions on the issue in parliament. I don’t think Manolis Glezos was expecting to see German public forces on the streets of Athens again in his lifetime. But then again, if they tear-gas the way the Greek cops do, there won’t be that much for anyone to see…
General strikes are more common in Greece than in most European countries – but still, they tend to come in the rate of one or two per year – not per calendar month. Thursday’s general strike is the country’s third (two full-day and one half-day) in the few weeks alone. Panepistimiou Avenue, part of the main protesting route – and one of Athens’ major thoroughfares – has been closed off for a week by strikers of Olympic Air; on March 10th, an attorney general ordered the police to disperse the crowd of about 2,000 who have gathered there.
The country’s official printing-house (where state laws are printed in order to come into effect) is currently occupied by employees in protest against the newly-introduced austerity plan. The general accounting office (this, ironically, in charge of monitoring the effects of the implementation of the austerity plan) is also under occupation by its employees. In the small northern city of Komotini employees at a local troubled company went straight to the source and occupied two of the city’s main bank branches.
December’s revolt had been a strong warning sign. The “700 euro generation” (in a country where everyday living expenses closely compete to the UK’s) had every reason to revolt. The death of a 15-year old boy? Cities smash and burn for days. An “austerity plan” pushing labour rights back by a few decades overnight; severe wage cuts, VAT increases, pension-freezes…
It is Wednesday, March 10th – the eve of the third recent strike in Greece. “I don’t really earn enough to get a cab to tomorrow’s demonstration”, writes a commentator on Athens IMC. “And there’s no public transport, as everyone is participating in the strike. Good for them. We are driving down there tonight, staying with a friend. And we’ll be using the car’s engine oil to wash the streets, our little gift to the thugs of the police’s motor-cycle Delta force.” There is anger building up in Athens’ streets and many expect to see it outpouring in the event that multi-national force descends in the city, if not before… Whether national or international, next time Manolis Glezos takes on the security forces he most certainly will not be alone.
Posted by Georgia Sagri at 12:32 μ.μ.