Summary of events in Syntagma on 03 September 2011

03 September was our first big protest gathering in Syntagma after the summer. This is a English-language summary of the tweets of people who were there. The original tweets in Greek, English and Spanish can be found here. For those who are not familiar with the geography of Syntagma, a map of the area is available here. Note that “upper square” refers to the eastern side of Syntagma, in front of parliament while “lower square” refers to the central part of Syntagma.

18:02 @tilevoas reports that the first-aid team has set up shop. 

18:24 @ypopto_mousi arrives in Syntagma. The sound system is on, people are coming and going, the various teams are getting ready. He reports minor clashes (“courtesies” as he says) between anarchists and far-right activists. Some small political parties and unions are distributing flyers. He sees only minor police presence, as confirmed by @prezatv and myself.

19:04 @tilevoas posts this picture of signs being prepared. 

The signs read (clockwise): “People in parliament, united from the start” – “It’s either us or them” – “When we enter parliament, many will go to jail” – “Global action against the IMF, Wall Street and the international banking system” – “Nationalize banks! Money for production, not for the rich”. More signs I saw later read: “We want a new constitution” – “MPs are at the service of the people not of the IMF” – “Abolish the law on ministers’ responsibility” – “Greeks are angry and steadfast” – “The junta didn’t end in 1973” – “Greece is not for sale.” There was also this banner in Spanish, translated courtesy of @StrelkaSputnik, that reads: “We are awake. What time is it? It’s high time they left.” @northaura says it has been in Syntagma since the beginning of the protests. 

@harrisxan also posted later this picture of a banner with the classic slogan “Bread – Education – Freedom.” (A little bit of history here: this slogan dates back to the nazi occupation of Greece during World War II and has been adopted by the Syntagma assembly.)

19:10 @ypopto_mousi and I see Amalias avenue being blocked by the crowd gathering in front of parliament. Some cars manage to squeeze their way through the crowd in the first few minutes and get booed by the protesters. A female human chain is then set up (picture by @tilevoas) to prevent more cars from passing through.

Meanwhile @Riaro_p reports that more protesters are gathering in front of the old Athens University building (Propylaia) on Panepistimiou Avenue to march to Syntagma, and comments on the presence of large numbers of junkies injecting drugs in broad daylight in the pedestrian street just next to the University.

19:14 @tilevoas posts this picture of the crowd in the lower square 

19:25 I see a French TV crew among the crowd on Amalias avenue in front of parliament, and spot another camera on a balcony of the Athens Plaza hotel. The crowd is growing fast, @ypopto_mousi estimates it at 2500-3000. It is very diverse: young people, pensioners, families with children, activists of all backgrounds, etc. @ypopto_mousi reports seeing young girls with stickers reading “free hugs” distributing hugs to people, a sign of the casual atmosphere in the square. We also see a lot of families with children with stickers reading “peace”, “solidarity” etc. People are clustering around in small groups and chatting.

19:41 My picture of the crowd in the lower square. There were equivalent numbers gathered on Amalias Avenue and the parliament plaza. I was reasonably happy with the turnout, as the crowd kept growing steadily, but @apneagr was disappointed and called for more people to come to Syntagma on Twitter. 

19:47 @SebaNegri arrives and sees no police. @AnemosNaftilos arrives and is impressed by the size of the crowd. @thanosntz posts this picture of the sunset in Ermou street, with the caption: “The sun sets, the revolution rises.” 

19:51 @harrisxan and I witness a small group of 20-30 anarchist youth arriving in front of parliament. Their demeanour is rather aggressive. There is some tension in the crowd, but they suddenly all rush towards Vas. Sofias Avenue and the tension fades away.

19:53 @ypopto_mousi reports that the sprinklers just turned on to water the lawns, and quite a few people were swamped.

19:55 @thesspirit reports that the police is blocking Stadiou Avenue to traffic (probably because the students’ demonstration is due to arrive any minute). @antidrasex also arrives and describes the situation as “small crowd, people gathered in clusters, chats, reunions, speculation.”

19:57 The students’ demonstration arrives in Syntagma, escorted by Loukanikos, the rebel dog of Athens (pictures via @thesspirit, @Riaro_p and @apneagr). 

@ypopto_mousi estimates the students’ demo at 3000 people. They walk up Othonos street and settle in front of parliament. @harrisxan has a picture. I tweeted during the demo that the top of the banner (not visible here) was a call for an open-ended strike. Other bits I make out from the picture below say “Hands off the sanctuary status of universities – The government of the memorandum <sells> the present and mortgages the future.”

Meanwhile, @mp_anana is preparing to come to Syntagma and sees a motorbike protest on its way. We soon see the bikers turn up on in front of parliament too.

20:02 @thesspirit posts these pictures of the lower square and Amalias Avenue. The crowd keeps growing. 

20:06 @ypopto_mousi reports some minor clashes between anarchists and nationalists in Amalias Avenue. He says calmer spirits prevailed in the end. @thesspirit also sees a black block, possible troublemakers.

Meanwhile, I am standing at the top of the stairs on Amalias with @doltsevito and we are observing the policemen standing on the balconies of the parliament. We spot two policemen, two riot policemen, one municipal policeman on the left balcony, and several people in civilian clothes (we can’t imagine who they work for). One of them is wearing a bright salmon pink shirt – not very discreet for a plain-clothes policeman. Later we notice that another two forlorn riot policemen are standing on the balcony to the right.

20:13 @cocobilly arrives in Syntagma and comments that the crowd is big and cheerful, with lots of Greek flags despite the fact that we lost the basketball game against FYROM/Macedonia. @apneagr tweets again for people to stop watching basketball and come to the square, saying “this is the real game.” The sound system is playing music (Prodigy according to @antidrasex). The lower square and Amalias Avenue are now packed; there are further groups of people sitting in Othonos and Vas. Georgiou streets. @thesspirit comments that there are probably more people in Syntagma than at the PASOK National Conference in the morning, and that the mood is certainly more upbeat. @cocobilly has a picture: 

20:22 @thesspirit posts this picture of a sarcastic sign in the square. It reads: “Live your myth in Greece if you are a banker, a politician or a tourist.” 

20:24 @ypopto_mousi estimates that the crowd has reached 5000. The popular assembly is expected to start at 21:00. @Domianos and @pitsirikos arrive. @pitsirikos comments: “Syntagma is nice. Emotional reunion with the riot police after the holiday. Hugs and kisses.”

20:36 @doltsevito and I are still standing at the top of the stairs in Amalias Avenue. The evzones (guards of the tomb of the unknown soldier) are moving around; the spotlights project their shade on the facade of the parliament, reminding of a rather ludicrous shadow play. @doltsevito later tweets that this proves our parliament is worthy of the Karagiozis tradition of shadow puppet theatre.

20:38 @Riaro_p reports that protesters kicked out of Amalias Avenue members of a nationalist group who wanted to take the Greek flags and give them to the police for safekeeping.

20:39 @thesspirit posts another picture of the square: 

20:40 Several tweeps are bragging about their suntan. @pitsirikos complains that he is so unrecognizable that Loukanikos barked at him.

20:42 We hear a boom, probably a stun grenade, coming from the direction of Vas. Sofias Avenue. Noone knows why the police threw it, but no further action for now. The crowd in Amalias Avenue remains calm. @thesspirit is standing just next to policemen and listening to their radios. @Riaro_p goes to check, sees nothing but reports that some people were even standing on the unknown soldier monument. @thesspirit later reports that someone had thrown a firecracker in front of parliament.

20:59 @Polyfimos reports that more people are arriving all the time and estimates the crowd at 10000. I see a French tourist with Guide du Routard in hand hanging out on Amalias Avenue and taking pictures of the local attractions. @silentcrossing reports that a small protest has also gathered in Chania, Crete (I didn’t follow what happened in other towns but I understand that there were protests throughout Greece).

21:15 @apneagr posts a picture of the crowd in front of parliament. 

Meanwhile people are gathering closer in the lower square for the beginning of the popular assembly. @ypopto_mousi and @theokot estimate participants in the assembly at 2000. @thesspirit has a picture: 

UPDATE/NOTE: 2000 is the number of people we estimated were participating in the assembly, not the total number of people in the square, that was much larger.

21:31 The assembly calls for mass protests during the International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki on 10-11 September. Texts are being read and discussed. They include a proposal for the selection of representatives of the assembly and a list of legal, constitutional and institutional points that protesters want to be modified (eg the fact that MPs should declare their assets transparently, that the judiciary should operate independently, etc.)

21:36 @harrisxan mentions how happy he was to meet in Syntagma the faces behind the Twitter avatars. It was a real joy for many of us after a summer of digital activism.

21:45 @odysseasgp has a picture of Greek entrepreneurship in full action in Syntagma: 

Meanwhile, @theokot tweets: “In Syntagma, citizens hold discussions, but most importantly they make an effort. They don’t agree about everything, but there are no personal interests at stake, so there are perspectives.” He also notes, as does @FightForNow, that the pet of Syntagma is unfortunately cockroaches.

21:54 @ypopto_mousi tweets a quote from the document put forward by the Direct Democracy team: “Communication between assemblies creates a horizontal, non-hierarchic network of squares-citizens.”

21:58 A lively Twitter debate is going on between proponents and opponents of the Syntagma protests, with one opponent, @MilitaryRaiden (who has likely never attended a protest), being particularly demeaning and rude. @Domianos comments: “The number of people at the assembly is at July levels. The political awareness of those who stayed at home is at the level of kindergarten children. Everything OK.”

21:59 @odysseasgp tweets: “In the beginning I felt that this was a failed reunion. Now that I’m leaving I understand that today was a hopeful beginning!”

22:02 We hear a few more stun grenades. Some people run down the stairs from Amalias Avenue. The assembly continues. @doleross reports that the police are pushing people back from the monument of the unknown soldier in front of parliament. A medic tells @ypopto_mousi that they just treated a young man with a head wound.

22:07 Tensions rise in Amalias Avenue. @ailatank tweets that protesters are throwing stuff at the cops. @Polyfimos also reports police movement up there, and @prezatv says the police put on their gas masks.

20:08 @tilevoas reports tear gas in front of parliament. Several tweeps say that the police is trying to push people off Amalias Avenue and down the stairs into the square. @cocobilly took a picture: 

Meanwhile, @tilevoas took a picture of the assembly, that was continuing normally: 

22:11 A witness comes along and tells @ypopto_mousi and me that a squad of riot policemen is standing in front of the Amalias stairs. @ailatank has a picture: 

Several tweeps (@doleross, @prezatv, @apneagr, @theokot, @iptamenos3 etc) as well as witnesses state that the police is aiming at emptying the upper square and Amalias Avenue. @Domianos reports they have succeeded: 

22:12 We see smoke rising from the square and all think it’s tear gas. The riot police appear to want to come down into the square. People are booing, screaming. @ailatank captured a short video of the scene. We are all expecting the police to kick out the assembly. The speaker calls for calm and asks the police to leave the square, saying “we are in the square and doing what they fear most: we’re staying here.” People form a human chain in front of the Amalias stairs (photo by @tilevoas)

22:17 A witness comes along and tells us the smoke we saw wasn’t tear gas but a fire extinguisher. We were beginning to wonder, because we couldn’t smell any tear gas from the lower square anyway. @doleross confirms that no tear gas was used, but witnesses told him the riot police used their shields and truncheons to hit people. Various witnesses report that the police are now blocking access to the square from Amalias Avenue. @ailatank comments: “it looks like those of us who are up here are stuck” (picture below).

22:21 Some tweeps are reporting the incident in very dramatic terms, but many of us disagree. The situation is tense but not that dramatic.

22:24 @cocobilly reports that teenagers are provoking the police with the usual “cops – pigs – murderers” slogan and similar nonsense. Picture below is his.

22:26 @doleross reports that the police aren’t allowing anyone on Amalias Avenue. Protesters have been confined to the square and Othonos and Vas. Georgiou streets. Minutes later, Amalias Avenue is open to vehicle traffic again (picture by @ailatank) 

22:30 @xalyma tweets: “The assembly continues. If you think of it, the cops pushed the people into the square. Deep down, they’re working for the assembly.” Meanwhile, the police explained to @doleross that they pushed people away because 1. they couldn’t keep Amalias Avenue closed for a few protesters, 2. there were fights between demonstrators.

22:34 @ypopto_mousi summarizes the impression of most tweeps and witnesses about the incident: “This was an obvious attempt at intimidation by the riot police, but some demonstrators behaved in a way that gave the police a pretext.”

22:35 @doleross reports that protesters have pushed back a small group of hooded thugs in front of Hotel Grande Bretagne. Meanwhile medics tell us they have treated two wounded and are going to collect another 4 reported cases from the upper square. @doleross also reports that a National Centre for First Aid ambulance collected a person who had fainted about half an hour earlier.

22:38 The situation has calmed down. The medic comes back and tells @ypopto_mousi and me that the wounded took hits to the upper body and head from the police. @Domianos concludes: “No tear gas anywhere. We just have to deal with provocative policemen and idiotic nationalists. Fantastic combination.”

22:41 @doleross comments on the new configuration of the square: “Tonight we can see that the Greek police has a new game plan, ie to limit protests to the square and keep Amalias Avenue open.” A witness to the incident tells me the same.

22:47 @odysseasgp posts this picture. The lawns of Syntagma were planted with Greek flags all over. 

22:49 @ypopto_mousi tweets that the police in Vas. Sofias is claiming that there is no more demonstration. Many people left during the incident, but the assembly is still big. @Domianos checks on the crowd from a higher vantage point and estimates it at 3-4000 people.

22:51 @cocobilly describes the incident earlier as “10 people who threw bottles and ran over the people behind them like crazy.” He credits Loukanikos with reestablishing order by barking: “woof, you assholes!” 

22:54 @doleross and @Riaro_p report that municipal cleaners are already at work on Amalias Avenue.

23:08 @Polyfimos reports “epic” discussions between people and riot police on Amalias Avenue. Meanwhile @ypopto_mousi is tweeting bits of the assembly discussion, where members of the public are speaking.

23:28 @mp_anana and @christina_la are telling me about a racist incident they witnessed in the afternoon near Syntagma. They had tweeted their account of it earlier in the day. I am inserting a summary of their tweets here. They also managed to upload a small video.

It was around 3pm on the corner of Ermou and Voulis Streets. A man selling corncobs in the street beat up an African who was selling counterfeit bags. The African was accusing the corn seller of stealing a bag from him and hiding it in his stand. The police let go the corn seller, trying instead to disperse the people who had gathered. A man in civilian clothes was shouting that people should leave. When @mp_anana and @christina_la asked what authority he had to give orders to anyone, a policeman told them he held some position in the police and the municipality. The corn seller called activists from a far-right group and they started chatting with the police. @mp_anana and @christina_la later found out from kids from the neighbourhood that the corn seller is a member of Chrysi Avgi. A squad of riot police came and shouted again that people should leave, but people were staying to prevent them from beating up the African street sellers and were insisting that the police open the corn stand to see if the bag was inside. A lady told a policeman: “we are paying you to do your job.” He answered: “you are not paying me, mind your own business.” Shopkeepers came out and said that the Africans were ruining their business, that they should leave, etc. Ironically, at least one of them was not Greek herself. Meanwhile, the African man who had been beaten was bleeding in the street (he had to be taken to hospital, full details in Greek here).

@mp_anana and @christina_la’s impression was that the far-right activists are selling protection, mafia-style, to shopkeepers in the neighbourhood (@risinggalaxy tweeted that an organisation called Patriotic Front have their offices nearby in Nikis Street) and that the police and far-right activists were very cosy with each other.

23:36 The crowd is slowly shrinking, but @mirsiniloizou still estimates the assembly at 1500 people (picture below is hers). @ypopto_mousi is following the vote on today’s decisions. A discussion thread will be opened on the website for consultation on the texts proposed at the beginning of the assembly.

23:55 @Domianos reports that things are heating up between kids from the square and riot policemen at the top of the stairs on Amalias Avenue. As the assembly wraps up and a concert is about to begin, we hear more noise and shouting coming from that direction. @mp_anana goes to check it out, but comes back saying nothing serious is going on.

00:14 @Polyfimos tweets that although there were a lot of people today, the word you would hear most often in conversations was, sadly, “Australia.” Meanwhile we get more reports of a group of protesters playing provoke-me-provoke-me-not with the riot police. Witnesses say that there have been arrests, that the police had beaten demonstrators. People are shouting at the police from the bottom of the stairs. In the meantime, the concert in the square continues.

00:20 A wounded protester is rushed by, carried by the medics. A witness says 15 arrests have taken place. @cocobilly tweets that after the scuffle the riot police retreated towards the parliament. @mp_anana comes back from the scene and says she saw two riot policemen grab the kid who was wounded, throw him on ground & beat him up with their truncheons.

00:27 A large group of youth rush down the stairs from Amalias Avenue and run into the metro.

00:28 The riot police invade the square. Everyone runs away towards Stadiou and Filellinon streets. @mp_anana hears the pshiiit of a tear gas spray gun.We later smell a slight whiff of tear gas from the other side of the road. @cocobilly posts these pictures of the riot police in the square: 

00:33 The bulk of the protesters have stopped bang in the middle of the road on the lower part of the square, blocking the traffic from Stadiou Avenue. The riot police push them further and start chasing them in Ermou street. @cocobilly also reports that the police have entered the Everest fast-food and are beating people there – not only protesters who fled but also people who were eating there and started booing them when they grabbed a protester to arrest him. The video below was posted to YouTube by RealDemocracyGr. @KHatzinikolaou also saw policemen assaulting people in the McDonald’s restaurant next door and on the sidewalks.

00:38 @PapaioannouG is watching the live stream from Syntagma on Stop Cartel TV GR (full video here, starts at approximately 9pm). He tweets that the riot police have entered the metro station.

UPDATE: A shorter video was uploaded by RealDemocracyGR, with images of the police invading the square and using the metro.

00:46 @mp_anana, @christina_la and I are walking around the lower part of Syntagma to check things out. We see a dozen riot police standing in the arcade under the Ministry of Finance and another 15 or so on the corner of Stadiou Avenue and Karagiorgi Servias Street. We see no clashes and people start regrouping in the central square while the riot police return to their positions at the top of the stairs on Amalias Avenue. @cocobilly has a picture: 

@SebaNegri however tweets that people should avoid Ermou Street, “it’s a trap” (picture mine not his).


01:09 @MitsosK is watching the late night news at home. He tweets: “Watching the evening news on Mega you’d think NOTHING happened in Syntagma today… Such irony!”

As far as I know, the evening ended with some 15 arrests and 7 wounded, but I might have missed some information here. It’s such a shame for a protest that was so peaceful, positive and constructive. But @cocobilly managed to cheer me up on the next morning with a single tweet:

“Yesterday in Syntagma I met people with whom we could talk and love each other for ever. So we’re talking about a triumph here!”

9 thoughts on “Summary of events in Syntagma on 03 September 2011

  1. Pingback: Greece: Students fight against education reform while Syntagma square re-occupied | - Be realistic, demand the impossible!

  2. Pingback: Greek police ‘battered four terrorist suspects then launched cover-up’ | just telling it as it is

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