More than 16,000 Greeks marched through the streets of Athens on Sunday to protest against austerity and mark the 40th anniversary of the student uprising against the former ruling military junta.
The annual march comes as Greece reels from its sixth year of recession. European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) lenders are set to begin a new round of talks to decide whether to throw more money at the southern European nation.
The crowd gathered in front of parliament in Syntagma Square, waving banners which read, “IMF, EU out!,” in reference to the bailouts that Greece has received from both bodies in return for harsh austerity measures.
The crowd shouted, “Don’t bow your heads” and “Never again fascism,” in reference to the military rule which took place between 1967 and 1974.
After rallying in Syntagma Square, the thousands of protesters made their way to the US embassy. Many believe the US privately backed the Greek army which rose to power in 1967.
The 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising protested against the rule of the Greek military junta which ruled from 1967-1974. The junta aimed to control every aspect of politics in Greece. It also forcibly drafted students into the military, thereby creating anti-junta sentiments among students.
February 21, 1973: Law students barricaded themselves inside the University of Athens, demanding that the law forcing students to go into the army be abolished. This was seen as a prelude to the uprising.
November 14, 1973: Students from Athens Polytechnic University also went on strike, barricading themselves inside buildings and broadcasting to the populace using a homemade radio transmitter.
November 17, 1973: The transitional government sent a tank crashing through the university gates. Twenty-four civilians were killed.
November 25, 1973: Military law was reinstated.
July 1974: The military regime imploded, ushering in a new era.
The country’s bailout has come at a very heavy price for the majority of Greeks. Citizens have experienced tax hikes alongside cuts in their wages and pensions. Unemployment has soared to record levels. Six in 10 young people in Greece are currently out of work, and homelessness is also increasing.
“People here are suffering – we can’t go any lower. We’re at our limits and the kids have no future so they’re leaving,” 48-year-old biologist Athena Pantra told Reuters at the rally.
“The troika should leave not them,” she added, referring to the trio of lenders which have kept Greece afloat and in the eurozone.
But an independent Greek politician told Reuters that Greeks would be better off without the troika’s cash.
“We will continue the struggle for bread, education and freedom. In order to abolish the bailout, kick out the troika from our country and regain Greece,” he said.
Seven-thousand police officers were on hand – prepared for violence or rioting – although the protests were largely peaceful.
However, in the port city of Patras, police fired teargas at around 200 demonstrators who hurled rocks and petrol bombs at the offices of the far-right Golden Dawn party. The government has cracked down on Golden Dawn since the openly fascist organization killed an anti-fascist rapper in September.