Friday, March 12, 2010

Battle Ground Athens: second general strike leads to pitched battles Mar 11 2010

More than 150,000 people took to the streets of Athens against the
austerity measures in a mass protest marches that have led to extended
battles in the greek capital.

On Thursday March 11 all Greece came to a 24h standstill as a result of
the second general strike to be called within less than a month (not the
third as reported by foreign media, as the first strike in February only
concerned the public sector). As a result of the strike called by GSEE
(private sector union umbrella) and ADEDY (public sector union umbrella)
as well as PAME (the Communist Party union umbrella) no buses, trams,
metros, trolley buses or suburban trains exited their stations, while due
to air-traffic control workers’ strike no flights are being realised
within or in and out of the country. Only the electric train will function
for 4h in Athens in order to facilitate people’s participation in the mass
demo at noon. In the health sector, all hospitals are functioning with
emergency personnel only, as all doctors, ambulance drivers and nurses are
striking. All banks are closed to the public, and all public and municipal
offices and services have been shut by the strike. The Corinth Canal has
also been shut by the workers controling it, allowing no ships to make the
vital crossing. All boats have been immobilised in the harbours and no
inter-city trains are running. Post offices remain closed, while National
Electricity, National Waters and National Telecoms workers are taking part
in the strike with all offices and factories of the above industries
closed for the day. All schools and universities remain also closed as
teachers and academics are partcipating in the strike. Office workers,
factory workers and contruction workers are also participating en mass in
the strike. Firemen and policemen are also performing walk-outs, with a
policemen demo at the National Police HQ planned for the afternoon. Due to
the participation of the TV, radio, electronic news websites, and the
press in the strike, there are no news broadcasts for 24h. Thus the
information gathered here will be completed by means of Comments after the
end of the General Strike when more information become available. In total
more than 3 million people (out of a total population of 11 million) are
expected to having taken part in the general strike today.

The General Strike comes as a new climax to labour struggle against the
new austerity measures the greek government has announced in response to
its notorious credit crisis. In the days before the General Strike, stage
workers have occupied the Ministry of Labour on Peiraeos street, while the
continuing occupation of the General State Accountancy by layed-off
Olympic Airways workers has caused the intervention of the state
persecutor who has demanded their arrest. No such move of repression has
been made yet by the police, and Panepistimiou street remains cut in two
by the protesters for more than a week now. In Salonica, the General
Industrialists Bureau was occupied yesterday by workers, while radicals
from the left dropped a huge banner in the Acropolis reading “take the
measures back”. Troughout the week, tax officers performed a 48h strike,
school traffic wardens in Northern Greece performed a 3-day strike, while
judges and other judicial officers performed 4-h work daily stoppages. No
garbage has been collected since last Saturday in Athens, Patras and
Salonica as refuse collectors have blockaded the great garbage depot of
the three major cities. Finally, in the city of Komitini ENKLO textile
workers are mounting an ever more intense labour struggle, with protest
marches and strikes: two banks were occupied by the workers last Monday.

The Demos:

The first demo in Athens was performed by PAME, the Communist Party union
umbrella, just before noon. PAME allied workers first formed small demos
across Athens, then marched to Omonoia square and all together in a 50,000
strong march to the Parliament. At the same time, people started gathering
at Patision and Alexandras junction for the demo called by GSEE and ADEDY.
The demo which soon gathered over 100,000 people set to march to the
Parliament at 12:30 when just outside the Polytechnic riot police forces
tried to cut-off a large anarchist block from the march by brutal force.
Clashes ensued with extended use of tear gas and molotov cocktails.
Despite the air being thick with smoke and CS gas, the march continued its
way along Patision avenue and on to Stadiou street where many corporate
shops came under attack. After reaching the Parliament, the march turned
to Panepistimiou street where renewed clashes erupted at the height of
Propylea. With the march coming to its final distination, protesters who
continued their way to Omonoia where attacked by Delta team motorised
forces. The Delta-team thugs tried to hit the protesters in full speed
sparking more pitched battles with police squads encircled and beaten by
the angry crowd and several Delta-team motorbikes destroyed. At the time
of writing, the battles have moved to Exarcheia where protesters have
erected flaming baricades and are confronting riot police and Delta force
cops by means of rocks and molotov cocktails. Many protesters have sought
refuge at the Polytechnic from which they are confronting police forces on
both Patision and Stournari street. During the clashes many protesters
have been wounded with one reported to be in intensive care with heavy
wounds on the chest. The number of people arrested remains unclear but
there are about 16 people detained and 13 cops hospitalised.

In Salonica 6 different marches took place by different unions and
umbrella unions. Protesters of the Worker’s Centre march, which numbered
7,000 people in total, attacked corporate and church-owned shops on
Egnatia avenue, while two super-markets were looted with the commodities
distributed to the people. Despite the police firing tear-gas, the march
continued and attacked the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace with paint and
rocks before reaching the Worker’s Centre.

In Ioannina despite the pouring rain around 1.500 people marched against
the measures with no news of clashes. Similar protest marches took place
in Sitia, Naxos, Veroia, Patras and other cities. In Heracleion, Crete,
shops that did not allow their workers to strike were blockaded and
several banks came under attack by protesters. In Volos, protesters
blockaded the gates of the METKA factory not allowing security-staff (i.e.
scabs) to enter the premises, with many more corporate chain shops that
did not allow their workers to strike blockaded and shut by the
protesters. The official union-bosses of Volos were forced to leave the
march after mass heckling by the workers.

Despite anti-strike war waged by the bourgeois media, amongst which the
more bloodthirty ones like Kathimerini is urging the government to crush
the protests “even if some protesters die”, the Athens march is estimated
to be the largest in 15 years, and has demonstrated the resolve of the
working class to fight back against the capitalist onslaught.


According to all information available 9 people appear to be arrested in
Athens during the protest march. They will appear tomorrow before the
state interrogator.

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