Monday, December 07, 2009

Monday morning in Athens

I found some really beautiful pictures this morning, most of which highlight the true importance of yesterday, that is commemorating the anniversary of the death of 15 year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulo, who was killed by police in Athens one year ago.

These were taken on Saturday night, on the eve of the anniversary. Since then, there was been rioting in Athens. Last night (Sunday night) we were up late getting a handle on had -and still was - happening.

My non-journalistic nutshell:
  • the shooting incident last year incited 3 weeks of rioting throughout Greece (more here)
  • the anger over the incident is well founded, but there is a new government in place that also abhors what happened, and had pleaded for peace
  • the youth's family had pleaded for peace, as they did not want their son's memory to be linked to violence
  • local demonstrators have been joined by anarchists from other countries
  • many have been arrested
  • there have been people injured here, including bystanders
  • the protesters are holed up in the university, which had been closed in anticipation of possible trouble
  • the dean of the university has been injured and is in hospital
  • the demonstrators brought sledgehammers and have been damaging marble stairs at the university
  • demonstrators took down a Greek flag at the university and raised their own (an anarchist flag?)
  • have seen pics of the Greek flag being burned in the streets
  • the garbage strike has litterally added fuel to the fires
  • have seen footage of molotov cocktails being thrown at riot police - and police with their uniforms on fire
  • police on motorcycles have pulled off their bikes which illustrates how hand-to-hand the fighting has been
  • bank windows have been smashed, and shops as well

Those are just a few things I remember from the coverage last night, and they may not be perfectly accurate.

I am not going to pretend to provide accurate coverage of what is happening here, just want to share my reactions, and a bit on what it means to be a traveller and visiting a country when something like this erupts.

Tip: if you Google the Athens riots to learn more, check that you are reading stories from this year - as opposed to last year, which were very extreme. Twice yesterday we were reading something and made ourselves stop and check if it was this year or last year's news - and it was last year's - to our relief.

Tip: Associated Press has had the best, most detailed coverage we've seen, however we learned things from Al Jazeera that we didn't find elsewhere

One such thing is the fact that police are not allowed to enter the university, so this must add a whole rangeg complications to the situation. We still do not know the source of this law, but are guessing it might be a result of the November 17, 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising and massacre in which dozens of students were killed by police (more here)?. Will have to research, but it is a bit baffling to an outsider.

Something we have been reflecting on as well, is that we saw police - just going about their regular duties the other day - and they looked so young, and were especially struck by one young man who barely looked 15. How terrifying it must be to be thrown into such a situation at such a young age, essentially in combat with one's peers.

We had been curious as to whether by Monday (today) things would be back to "normal" or whether the disturbances would continue. It is too early to know yet. But last night we were thinking that it may very well carry on, as the protesters are still in the university.

If that's the case, there might be a little adjusting of plans (and a detour to a Greek island now instead of later?), with the idea of deferring the Athens sights until later in the month.

1 comment:

Mabel @ Barcelona said...

Be careful!!!! Kiss from Barcelona