Last night at 11:00pm, we got back to Athens from an amazing trip to Roma and Napoli. The last thing I wanted to do was to wake up at nine to traipse around Athens watching the Communist and Anarchist demonstrations. However, it ended up being a remarkable, eye opening experience that I never imagined I would ever be a part of.
On November 17, 1973 there was an anti-junta demonstration escalated into military tanks charging through the gates of Athens’ Polytechnic University. Very few deaths were recorded, but it was a massacre unlike no other, and hundreds were killed or wounded. The result of this uprising was the restoration of Parliamentary Democracy and the date becoming an acknowledged school holiday.
Today, on November 17, schools and universities close to commemorate the valiant efforts of their living ancestors and loved ones lost in the valiant effort against military dictatorship and tyranny. At the Polytechnic University, classrooms are filled with photos, videos, and presentations of the events that took place on that day 35 years ago. Flowers, banners, and photos are placed in front of the gate where the tanks entered the school. Hundreds of students gather to hand out flyers and talk about the significance of that day and how much change is still needed.
Dmitri, a professor for HAU, offered to go to the commencement march that starts at the Polytechnic University and ends at the United States Embassy. Dom, Ashley, and I were the only girls from Sina who decided to go. And we were sooo glad we did.
We walked for blocks and blocks with police officers on the left and right of us wearing gas masks, holding guns, and carrying shields. It is no understatement to say we were a bit uncomfortable. Dozens of political parties and political groups marched and chanted with drums, sticks, and megaphones. The demonstrators threw rocks at the police, and they retaliated by hurling tear gas at them.
Professor Marra, Ron, Ry, Kayla, and Leslie met up with us, and Dmitri began to translate what the demonstrators were chanting. “The sun will weep tears of happiness when we become free.” “Psomi pedia eleftheria (bread, education, freedom).” And of course the predicted Anti-American Slander (even though Dmitri informed us that most of their platforms and ideas come from pamphlets and thinkers from the US).
It was an amazing sight. Nothing like this would ever happen in the states. Major roads were blocked off, buses and trains were closed, and police were ready for the impending riots. However, in the midst of all this chaos, parents brought their children to witness the March protest march. Ioanna and Dmitri told us that parents brought their children there so that they would learn from a young age that in order to get what you want, you need to take it to the streets and be heard. “One Solution…Revolution.”