War-Zone Athens: three people dead, many buildings burning as general strike march turns into a battle
Libcom.org May 5 2010
Three people have suffocated to death as a result of a fire in Marfin Bank
during ongoing battles between anti-measure protesters and police in
The Athens protest march marking the zenith of the general strike called
for the 5th of May was attended by an approximate 200,000 (20,000 which is
the foreign broadcast number referring to the PAME march alone), although
because of lack of media coverage due to the media participation in the
general strike no concrete estimates can be made. After the PAME
(Communist Party union) protesters left Syntagma square, the first lines
of the main march started arriving before the Parliament with the first
clashes erupting at the end of Stadiou street. The march then walked on
the Unknown Soldier grounds leading the Presidential Guard to retreat, and
attempted to storm the Parliament but was pushed back by riot police
forces which today demonstrated a particularly staunch attitude and
resolve against the demonstrators. Soon battles erupted around the
Parliament with protesters throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks, with one
riot police armored van torched, and the police responding by extended use
of tear gas that soon made Athens’ atmosphere unbearably acrid. As more
blocks reached Syntagma square, the battles spread across the city center
and lasted for more than five hours.
During the clashes several state buildings were set ablaze including the
County Headquarters of Attika. At the time of writing the Ministry of
Finance is reported to be on fire, and vital tax documents as destroyed by
the raging fire. However the strange thing is that it is the fourth floor
of the building that is burning, at a height inapproachable to petrol
bombs. The building is in danger of total collapse.
According to news reports that began at 14:00 Greek time after, under
pressure by the events, most radio and TV stations decided to break their
strike, claim that the fire at Marfin Bank’s Stadiou street branch that
has led to the death of three workers (one a pregnant woman) was started
by protesters. However this remains an unsubstantiated claim. A similar
case three decades ago had originally put the blame for the fire at
Kappa-Marousi building on Panepistimiou street, leading to the death of
several people inside, to anarchists, while its was later proved the fire
was caused by tear gas fired by the police.
A video of the fire-brigade trying to evacuate the building can be seen in
After the tragic death of the three workers made the round of Athens, new
clashes started to spread in the Greek capital, with a large crowd
gathered outside the burned bank when Marfin's boss tried to visit the
site. Clashes broke out between the crowd and police when the former
attacked the bank magnate accusing him of forcing the dead workers to scab
on a general strike and locking them in the building despite them
demanding to evacuate it since 12:00.
In Parliament the Communist Party of Greece has accused the government for
the deaths, claiming it was a result of agents provocateur fascist groups.
The claims of the Communist Party are based on the fact that 50 fascists
tried to enter the PAME demo bearing the flags of the union earlier in the
morning. The fascists were spotted, chased and sought refuge behind riot
police lines. Accusing the extreme-right as being behind the deaths, the
Coalition of Radical Left has declared in Parliament that the government
cannot pretend to be in grief for the loss of life, as it has been
attacking human life by all means possible.
Meanwhile, extended clashes broke out in Salonika where approximately
50,000 people marched destroying dozens of banks and corporate shops in
Greece’s second largest city. Clashes with the police continued for
several hours. According to news broadcasts anarchist have occupied the
Labour Center of the city.
In Patras, around 20,000 protesters were joined by tractor drivers and
garbage truck drivers on their vehicles, as flaming barricades were
erected along central streets of the city and clashes developed between
protestors and the police.
In Ioannina the protesters attacked banks and corporate shops leading to
extended use of chemicals by the police. In Heraklion, 10,000 people are
reported as marching against the measures. In Corfu, protesters taking
part in the anti-measures march occupied the County Headquarters.
Protesters have occupied the Administrative Headquarters of Naxos and the
City Hall of Naoussa.
As a result of the Athens riots, the police have cordoned off the entire
center of the city, erecting check points of entry and exit, while all
police work permits have been recalled. At the time of writing battles
continue to rage in the inner city, while news broadcasts claim the police
is mobilising its forces to storm an anarchist squat in Exarcheia.
May 5 2010 16:21
Update: the union of bank workers (OTOE) has declared a strike for
tomorrow in response to the death of the three bank workers today. The
union puts the blame for the deaths on the bank bosses and the police.
A video of protesters attacking Mr Vgenopoulos the boss of Marfin visiting
the burned bank, calling him a murderer can be seen here
A video of riot police smashing a coffee shop in Exarcheia can be seen