A restrained Polytechnic anniversary

Youths threw sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails and police responded with tear gas and dozens of detentions yesterday, as in almost every annual commemoration of the day in 1973 that the 1967-74 dictatorship used tanks to crush a student rebellion at the Athens Polytechnic. But, after anticipating more violence than usual, police chief Fotis Nasiakos said the 30th anniversary of the revolt was also the most peaceful. Some 7,000 police officers were on duty, double the amount of previous years. Tables had been set up at the entrance of the Attica General Police Directorate to speed up the booking of the large number of detainees expected. Police had made dire predictions that the 30th anniversary would lead to greater participation in the annual demonstration and march to the US Embassy, the occupation of Iraq would increase anti-American sentiment and the trial of 19 suspected members of the terrorist gang which named itself after November 17 would be a cause of protests by sympathizers. But police were most concerned by the fact that the detention of seven youths arrested during anti-EU rioting in Thessaloniki on June 21 had sparked firebomb attacks in Athens and Thessaloniki recently. Five of the seven arrested in Thessaloniki – two Spaniards, a Syrian, a Briton and a Greek – have been on hunger strike for over 40 days. Three are in Nikaia General State Hospital and two in Korydallos Prison. They deny charges of rioting and possession of firebombs and demand to be released on bail. It was not clear if any of the 42 youths detained in Athens yesterday were among the hunger strikers’ supporters. The march was smaller than usual – police put it at 10-12,000. «Some people wanted to cause trouble,» Nasiakos said. «But we did not give them the opportunity. Most of the damage was caused after the march, along Alexandras Avenue, where they damaged shop windows and, mainly, garbage bins. I don’t consider this serious.» He said 20 people were detained before the march for having objects such as slingshots, clubs, stones and empty bottles in their rucksacks. In Thessaloniki, one youth was arrested and another four detained briefly.