We found out that there will be a big Anarchist protest on Tuesday near Exarchia about the elections (we are really excited about going). The conservative New Democracy Party and its moderate/liberal rivals PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist movement) dominate elections in Greece and people are pushing for a major shift in thinking. Families such as the Karamanlis family[ND] (the current president is the nephew of the former president) and the Papandreou family[PASOK] (the head of the party (Georgios) is the son of the former head (andreas) who himself was the son of the former head (Georgios sr.) There are giant posters about the protest all over the city, but we couldn't read/understand them before this morning.
There is a Greek joke that is as follows: "A Greek person finds a Genie and the Genie grants one wish. The Greek says, 'I want to speak to my dead mother that I haven't seen in a while and I miss.' The Genie says, 'Im not sure I can grant that wish....is there anything else that you want?'.. The Greek thinks for a while and says 'Can you make the Greek Leftist parties work together?'.... The Genie replies 'What were you saying about your mother?'
Today's plans include finding paint and soil for the squat to setup rooms for Palestinian refugee families and to start a garden on the roof.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
We just sailed back from the Greek island of Agistra. It was beautiful and we spent the night there. Unfortunately, one of our crew, Andy, fell and sprained his leg. There was no doctor on the island and the firemen refused to pick him up in their vehicles, so we had to walk across the island and track down the only taxi. Hes back at the squat now and all is fine.
Squat News: A meeting at the squat a few days ago decided to invite 3 palestinian widows and their families into the squat. This means that rooms will need to be fixed up and painted. Beds need to be found, and in general we can be put to work for a really noble cause. There are already 3 Palestinian men who live at the squat and they have been talking to us about their experiences there and teaching us rudimentary Arabic.
Athens Radical News: A bunch of Fascists gathered in downtown Athens on Friday to mark the May 29, 1453, fall of Constantinople. Needless to say Muslim immigrants and Antifa was out in force. We missed it, but I was told that police presence was fierce. Some racists in a separate incident also ignited a gas canaster and threw it through a window of an Athens store that also doubles as a prayer center for Muslims. Things are really tense here regarding immigration and fascists right now.
Keeping you all informed!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Yesterday in the afternoon we made our way back to Exarchia with a Dutch girl who was staying at our squat. Our main goal was to see the infamous Polytechnic university. The university had been involved in the uprising against the Greek military Junta in 1973 and was also the most prominent university in the December uprising. Greek Anarchists and some communists had used it as a base to launch protests and to store molotov cocktails in December and January.
We made ourway to the University, not paying our fares on the metro (its an honor system going in and occasionally Greek police check--none of the anarchists pay). The university is covered in amazing Graffiti. Though not all of it is Anarchist as one would expect. The Greek Communist Party,KKE, has a lot of grafitti on the walls too and a bunch of hammer and sickle signs. They have memorialized the crushed gates that a tank had rolled over in1973. It was also funny how every student we saw was wearing black. We looked like outsiders, especially cause we were taking lots of pictures.
After being blown away by the Polytechnic University, we walked through a largely immigrant neighborhood. An older ethnically Greek man walking in front of us kept saying "Dont walk in my country" in English to every immigrant that walked past. He was also saying other stuff that I cant remember.
As we walked into the square where the Dutch girl, Arisa, had some friends, we sat and drank some vodka and tsiporo. Then we watched as Arisa and her friends spun and ate fire. Maria made friends with one of the firespinners who was originally from Spain, but had been living in Greece for about 10 years. Her name was also Maria and the two Marias spent most of the night hanging out and dancing. (this is her pictured below with a little girl hugging her.)
After a few hours, of a beautiful view and hanging out with some firespinners, they told us that they were going to a concert. Andy and Joe went back to the Squat and Maria, Dan, and I left with them. We made our way, with the marias dancing to bongo music and guitar, to what turned out to be the European Jazz festival. The Greek Maria turned out to be adept at scoring free drinks and free everything and after several drinks and some smooth Jazz they told us that there was another concert they were going to. We followed them again even further away from our squat and grabbed a bus. As luck would have it, Stratos and another Greek anarchist from our squat was on the bus. We got off in the same spot and we quickly realized that this "concert" was actually Babylon Fest (a massive 4 day long Anarchist festival). The concert was free and many Greek bands were there. Chomsky and Zinn were just some of the speakers who were supposed to headline in. There were also many Anarchist groups and unions including the CGT with all their books and literature (in Greek unfortunately). There were definitely over 10,000 Greek youths the night went (it was ridiculous). The Marias danced to punk and reggae and jazz, while Dan and I scoped out stuff and rocked out to a Greek Metal band. All in all a good night!.... Athens is the most radical city ever!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
We spent several hours hanging out in Exarchia last night. A concrete parking lot had been smashed by students and turned into a park, plants and trees were being grown and there was a metal gate around the park that was a makeshift barricade against police intrusion. Riot cops are a common sight in Exarchia due to the uppity radicals who have essentially taken over large parts of the Athens neighborhood. We had to pass about 15 with riot shields to even make our way over to the park. We were told by our Greek friends that 4 out of 7 nights there are clashes near the park at night. Police try to make shows of force and the youth usually throw rocks or molotovs at them. We didn't see any of that while we were there, but the cops were still on edge.
We did walk to the spot where Alexis was shot and saw the plaque that was put up to commemorate his death. There was also lots of political graffitti everywhere to dwarf the stuff we saw in other areas of Athens. A common slogan that was put up during December was "Athens is Burning." There are anarchy signs and posters on nearly every wall we saw in the whole neighborhood. The banks all had been boarded up (due to them being firebombed and smashed during the December Uprising) and they currently had anticapitalist graffiti all over them. Antifa stuff was everywhere! (there was lots of murals of people destroying swastikas and beating up Nazis)
We were really impressed with the neighborhood and we followed our Greek Anarchist friends to an outdoor cafe where we drank ridiculous amounts of Rakia (mostly Tsipouro) and ouzo (which is not nearly as good as Rakia)... though they brought out lots of olives and meats and other foods so as to not kill us. After we got the bill, the waitress decreased it, cause they dont tip there and Exarchia has a way of being anti capitalist. She then brought out even more Tsipouro after we paid, so we drank that. Greeks can drink a ton!...
Anyway... Exarchia is an amazing neighborhood that is radical as all hell!
Monday, May 25, 2009
We had a weird situation leading up to our arrival in Greece. Maria had been arrested and was still in jail until the morning of our trip and I didn't think that she would make it... but she pulled through and ended up arriving just before the plane left. When Maria and I arrived, we met two other folks who had heard about our trip from a friend in Iowa and had decided to chill with us.
Once everything was situated, we took a bus to Syntagma square and met with Joe (another of the Iowa crew) and Evi, a Greek Anarchist, who led us to a giant squat. It is apparently one the of the largest squats in all of Europe. It fits 20-30 people and the walls are covered with spraypainted political graffiti and posters. One of the squatters, a former communist and now present anarchist by the name of Stratos gave us a rundown of the current political situation in Greece.
There have been some small confrontations with fascists, but he is convinced that many of the immigrants can defend themselves against the weak nazi movement. He is more concerned with the growth of squats in Athens and the seizure of space for public activity. Apparently there are many squats in Athens alone and even more around other parts in Greece. Large and provocative protests happen at least once a week. In addition, there is Political Grafitti everywhere including spraypainted slogans, anarchy signs, hammer and sickles, and other stuff all over universities and building walls. There was also a strike going on on the path of the bus we took. While things have "died down due to it being summer", the level of activity is still very high and we are all very impressed. Tonight we are going to Exarchia to see the big activist scene around the Polytechnic and to hang out and drink with activists.