40,000 Workers Defy Greek ‘police Terror’

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Outside the Vouli on Thursday evening – young workers stand their ground against the riot police
Outside the Vouli on Thursday evening – young workers stand their ground against the riot police

OVER 40,000 workers and youth congregated in the central Athens square outside the Vouli (Greek parliament) on Thursday night despite the riot police terrorist chemical warfare of the past two days.

Workers demanded the resignation of the Papandreou government and that those responsible for the riot police attack to be brought to justice.

They shouted ‘cops, pigs murderers’ to the hundreds of riot police that were lined up fully armed outside the Vouli building.

Some 500 demonstrators received hospital treatment after last Wednesday’s riot police attack in the square.

Both the vice-president of the Athens Medical Doctors Association, Y Patoulis, and the president of the Attica Pharmacists Association, K Lourantos, stated that their associations are taking legal action against the police for ‘excessive use of chemicals that put people’s lives in danger’.

Seventeen people have been charged with criminal offences and were to appear in front of an Athens Court yesterday.

But spirits were sky-high at Thursday night’s Popular Assembly meeting, with scores of speakers defiantly stating that the fight is just beginning for the ‘overthrow of Papandreou and the whole political system’.

An Egyptian doctor, just flown into Athens from Cairo, said: ‘you must go on like they do in the Tahrir square.’ A Spanish woman called for the unity of Spanish and Greek workers against the policies imposed by the IMF and the European Union.

The Greek parliamentary junta of Prime Minister Yiorghos Papandreou had to unleash unprecedented chemical warfare against over 70,000 demonstrators outside the Vouli (parliament) last Wednesday so as to pass by 5 votes the hated Mid-Term Economic Programme Bill.

This was on the second day of a 48-hour general strike called by the GSEE (Greek TUC).

What has to be most seriously noted and understood is that the Papandreou regime’s riot police attack was carried out in the total absence of the organised working class and trade union movement as the treacherous bureaucratic leadership of the GSEE and ADEDY (public sector trades unions federation) refused to mobilise workers in the streets of Athens.

Likewise, the Stalinist leaders of the KKE (Greek Communist Party) once again kept thousands of workers and students away from the battles that took place in the whole of the Athens city centre last Wednesday.

On the second day of the crucial and historic 48-hour general strike, on the day that parliamentary deputies were voting on the most reactionary Mid-Term Economic Programme Bill, the GSEE-ADEDY bureaucrats kept workers at home and even cancelled a rally in Athens that they themselves had called!

The leaders of the GENOP trade union (electricians and power workers) who were waging a 10-day long national strike against privatisation, called the strike off last Wednesday afternoon as the riot police were engaging in a chemical bombardment of workers and youth in the streets of Athens.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators congregated early on Wednesday at three points in central Athens to encircle the Vouli building.

But the riot police at about 10.00am started an orchestrated naked violence and terror attack using hundreds of teargas and other chemicals.

Demonstrators had been prepared and were wearing masks but the sheer quantity of the chemicals thrown by the riot police forced them to withdraw.

In the main Athens square outside the Vouli at about 1.30pm a Battle of Athens begun with over 1,000 riot fully armed police attacking workers and youth.

The riot police orders were clearly to split and disperse demonstrators with chemicals and then attack them with their clubs and shields.

The riot police violence exceeded the operations against the youth uprising of December 2008.

But so did the resistance and determination especially of young workers.

They set up barricades in many central Athens streets to stop the riot police attacks, refused to abandon the Vouli square and tens of thousands remained in the streets around the square.

Then the government unleashed gangs of riot police on motorbikes which drove straight into the mass of demonstrators throwing noise-lightning bombs and hitting anyone in sight with their truncheons.

Members of the Revolutionary Communist League, the Greek section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, took the initiative of uniting demonstrators into groups to resist the attacks and also to speak out clearly and explain the nature of the riot police attacks, of the parliamentary junta of Papandreou, and the urgent need to organise a mass revolutionary party to overthrow both the government and capitalism.

Workers responded with slogans on the need for indefinite struggle with the understanding that there is no going back, the battles have begun.

Young and middle-aged women were the most outspoken.

By 9.00pm the riot police had occupied half of the Vouli square and a few thousands of demonstrators remained there encircled by riot police. Streets battles occurred late into the night.

At 11.00pm a Popular Assembly was set up in a square half a mile from the Vouli square and it was decided then to stage a midnight demonstration and call for a mass rally for Thursday evening outside the Vouli.

The ADEDY leaders and the Co-ordination of Trade Unions have also called for a rally in the Vouli square.