Annual Polytechnic commemoration march through Athens; scattered rioting

Sunday, 17 November 2019 21:36
UPD:21:48
SOOC/George Vitsaras
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An annual protest march to mark the anniversary of a students' uprising against a military junta ruling Greece in 1973 was held in Athens and other cities around the country on Sunday, with press reports citing a greater participation than previous years.

The ubiquitous incidents of urban rioting by groups of young self-styled anarchists, mostly in central Athens, nevertheless again flared up on the sidelines of the annual Nov. 17 march, which begins at the Athens Polytechnic, the scene of the quelled uprising, and concludes at the US embassy.

By the early evening, up to seven arrests were reported, with a police presence at this year's commemoration reaching up to 5,000 uniformed and plain clothes officers.

Similar marches were held in a handful of major cities around the country, with small-scale violence also reported in Thessaloniki and Patras.

Several press reports later in the evening cited an attempt by police to evacuate and cordon-off the inner city square of Exarchia, in the same-name neighborhood behind the Polytechnic, a "hub" for anarchists and self-styled anti-state militants in the Greek capital. Drone video footage and photographs that were released by Greek police (EL.AS) ostensibly showed a rooftop in the Exarchia littered with firebombs, as authorities had warned that riot police would be sent onto apartment building roofs if rioters were spotted.

This year's annual march also witnessed the return of former prime minister and leftist firebrand Alexis Tsipras to the front of the Nov. 17 protest march ranks, a development that generated a pair of political "salvos" between the center-right government and Tsipras' SYRIZA party.

The ex-Greek premier marched for almost half the distance towards the US embassy, surrounded by supporters and members of his SYRIZA party, which held power until last July, when it lost a snap election and was replaced by center-right New Democracy (ND) party.

In a caustic reaction on Sunday evening, ND said Tsipras acted in the role of a "tourist" at the protest march, leaving midway when reaching a luxury hotel. "He came, saw, and left; a tourist at protests, too. Today's SYRIZA, in a frame," was the statement.

A response by the main opposition party was immediate, deriding the use of the term "tourist" by charging that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was taking an extended weekend break in London during the Polytechnic anniversary.

 

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