Police brace for worst

Greece today commemorates the 30th anniversary of a student-led uprising at the Athens Polytechnic which was crushed by tanks and troops of the military dictatorship of 1967-74. The revolt helped bring down one dictator by another, who then engineered the coup on Cyprus which lead to the Turkish invasion, the collapse of the Greek junta and the restoration of democracy. Seven thousand police officers – double the number of last year – will be guarding central Athens and plan to intervene and nip any violence in the bud while also trying not to provoke demonstrators. Traffic will be disrupted around the National Technical University of Athens (as the Polytechnic is now known) on Patission Street, through central Athens to Syntagma Square and from there to the US Embassy on Vassilissis Sofias Street. A protest march to the embassy is expected to begin midafternoon but roads will be closed earlier and bus routes may be revised (passengers are advised to call 185 for updates from the OASA bus company). University faculty and students also are planning to guard premises which have been the targets of violence and occupation by self-proclaimed anarchists in the past. The annual demonstration is expected to be more eventful than usual as it is the 30th anniversary. Also, anti-American sentiment, always high on such days because of America’s perceived support of the junta, has been revived by the US invasion of Iraq. And 19 suspected members of the November 17 terrorist group, which takes its name from the day in 1973, are currently on trial in Korydallos Prison. Sympathizers are expected to use the opportunity of the march to clash with police or to cause damage. But what has alarmed police the most is the expectation of protests by supporters of five young people who have been on hunger strike since late September and early October in protest at their detention since the anti-EU riots of June 21 in Thessaloniki. One of the men, a Spaniard, is in the General State Hospital in Nikaia, while another four are in Korydallos Prison. Two other detainees are in juvenile prison at Avlona, north of Athens. They deny charges of rioting and possession of fire bombs. Police fear activists from Italy and Spain will be here today. Athens and Thessaloniki have been hit by a spate of firebomb attacks by supporters of the detainees. With the Olympics next year, police would like to avoid any trouble.