HUNDREDS of armed riot police (MAT) in full gear viciously attacked a militant march in Athens against the visit of US President Barack Obama on Tuesday night.
On Monday, the government of prime minister Alexis Tsipras issued, through the Athens Head of Police, an edict outlawing all marches and demonstrations for two days throughout the city centre, the Athens airport, the area Obama was staying, major roads as well as the Acropolis!
Over 10,000 students, youth and workers in defiant mood marched on Tuesday night in Athens from the Polytechnic to near the Vouli (Greek parliament) square shouting slogans against imperialism, NATO and the EU, war, austerity and for victory to Palestine.
The march was stopped from proceeding to the US Embassy, with riot police (MAT) having placed coaches to block all streets leading to the Vouli and the embassy. Students wearing helmets and masks and waving red flags attempted to march through the MAT blocks but were pushed back by the combined force of huge amounts of toxic pepper gas, smoke-noise bombs and the violence of the truncheons and shields.
It was a predetermined co-ordinated attack by the MAT forces as it occurred concurrently against three different spots of the march. Vassilis Gitakos, a local government trade union official, said that he was sprayed with pepper gas directly in his eyes and hit by a smoke-noise bomb on his feet. The Seafarers’ delegation was also attacked.
On 3 October, when the MAT forces attacked a pensioners’ march in Athens, both Tsipras and his Public Order Minister Toskas had said that from now on the riot police would not use chemicals against marchers. The MAT attack on Tuesday night failed to disperse the marchers despite the huge yellow cloud of toxic pepper gas covering the four lane central Athens street. They withdrew in orderly fashion.
A separate rally was held in Athens by the Greek Communist Party (KKE). They just marched for about 500 metres, looked at the MAT cordons and then dispersed. But militant marches took place on Tuesday night in all Greek major cities.
Later, youth demonstrated at a police station near the Athens Polytechnic buildings and were attacked by the MAT with loads of pepper gas. They retaliated with petrol bombs and fires to diminish the pepper gas effects.
Greek students are now all set for tonight’s (Thursday 17 November) march, the anniversary of the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising which led to the overthrow of the US-backed military junta.
Greek students’ unions issued angry statements against the Tsipras government and Obama who came to Athens on the Polytechnic anniversary. Earlier in the day, at a joint press conference, Obama pledged support for a ‘hair-cut’ on Greece’s colossal public debt now at 180% of the country’s GDP.