Basics Issue #12 (Jan/Feb 2009)
And the riot be the rhyme of the unheard
– Rage Against the Machine
For nearly all of December of last year, and continuing into 2009, Greece has been experiencing an event that happens far too infrequently in our world: a youth-sparked rebellion that has led to a revolutionary upsurge gripping the entire country.
The fuse for the rebellion was lit when Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15-year-old-student, was killed in cold blood by police in the Greek capital, Athens, on December 6th, 2008. Alexandros had been hanging out with friends in the Exarcheia district when a verbal confrontation started with police. In a flash, one of the cops went pig and pulled out his gun and fired, killing Alexandros.
Exarcheia is well known as a hang-out for leftists, artists, and radical-minded people, and within minutes of the shooting, people from the neighbourhood were pouring in the streets. With news quickly spreading by text-messages, that night thousands gathered and began confronting and fighting the police. People also struck out at banks and other symbols of the system.
The rebellion was clearly fed by deeply-felt resentment and rage against the brutal character of Greek police – demonstrated by the fact that word of the killing sparked demonstrations and rioting in other major Greek cities. On December 7th and 8th, large demonstrations were organized in Athens, popularly attended by middle, secondary school, and university students who had walked out of classes to protest the killing. These protests led to large-scale street-fighting with the police, the cops attacking with rubber bullets and tear gas and the demonstrators responding with Molotov cocktails, rocks, and anything else they could get their hands on.
December in Greece continued with a dizzying array of protests and riots – quickly creating a movement that inspired radicals around the world – especially in Europe. Solidarity demonstrations were held in most other European countries. This outpouring of internationalism was reflected in slogans taken up by Greek rebels, such as “Greece - France : Insurrection Everywhere.”
Just as with other police terrorism provoked rebellions, like the Los Angeles rebellion of 1992, the French rebellion of 2005, or the rebellions in Montreal North in August 2008 or Oakland this January 2009, the events in Greece show the potential for upheaval that is ever-present in what on the surface appear to be stable societies. The fact remains that the deep discontent people feel under this system cannot always be contained by official channels like elections. The police brutality and disrespect, the shitty jobs, the racism, the stress of studying non-stop for a career that may or may not be there for you when you graduate... sometimes this smoulders under the surface, and sometimes it explodes.