NEWS

Firebombs at banks presage rough Nov 17

A barrage of fire-bomb attacks on five banks and an opposition party’s offices in the Greater Athens region in the early hours yesterday confirmed police fears that this year’s commemorations of the student uprising of November 17, 1973, will be more eventful than usual. Three days of events around the Athens Polytechnic begin today and will end with a protest march to the US Embassy on Monday afternoon. Traffic restrictions will be in effect around the Polytechnic in central Athens from 6 a.m. today until 6 a.m. on Tuesday, with roads closed and no parking allowed in the area. This year’s commemorations of the student-led uprising, which was crushed by tanks and troops, were expected to be more significant than previous years because Monday is the 30th anniversary of the event that helped bring about the end of the 1967-74 military dictatorship. Also, 19 suspected members of the November 17 terrorist gang, which named itself after the fateful day in 1973, are on trial in a Korydallos Prison courtroom. Since the suspects’ arrest last year, demonstrations by sympathizers have sometimes turned violent. Also, the US invasion and occupation of Iraq is expected to revive anti-American fervor among leftist groups, anarchists and anti-globalization activists. But what is expected to spark the greatest protests and possible violence is the detention of seven young people who were arrested on June 21 during a violent anti-EU demonstration in Thessaloniki. One of them has been on a hunger strike from late September and another four from early October. These five are being held in Korydallos Prison in Athens and another two in a juvenile prison north of the capital. They are demanding to be released on bail and deny the charges of rioting and possessing fire bombs. They claim that they have been set up by the police. Senior police and Public Order Ministry officials met yesterday to plan strategy for the three-day commemorations. The basis of their planning is to have a strong but discreet police presence in order to deal with possible violence quickly without provoking it. Although the main body of such marches, usually made up of members of the Communist Party and other leftist movements, is guarded by the parties organizing them, small groups of self-proclaimed anarchists often hide among other protesters and carry out fire-bomb attacks on police and property. Officials of the National Technical University of Athens, as the Polytechnic is now known, have organized a team of 1,500 professors, students and participants in the 1973 rebellion to guard the premises and prevent rioters from taking over and causing damage, as has happened in previous years.