Greek Riots: translations #2
[ Translated article from yesterday's Le Monde: link to www.lemonde.fr . A somewhat picturesque view of things, but some good background info on how people's outrage has been building up for a long time.]
Inside the Athens Polytechnic University, which has been transformed into a fort, young greeks talk about the "civil war." (Elise Vincent, Le Monde, Tuesday)
Their citadel has no observatory, but classes meant for teaching. That's where they put together their wall of protection. This is the Athens Polytechnic, which normally counts 13,000 students. Three days after the death of a young, 15 years old boy, killed by a policeman on December 6 a few meters away [from here], the Polytechnic became the principal fort of of that which many among them call "civl war."
"They" are students, they are active youths, boys, girls. The hoods & the scarfs keep them protected from teargas & also hide their beards & their earrings.
An entire generation, in fact: they're between 15 & 35 years old. An entire society, also: those payed a minimum-wage, young workers, militants of the far left, & others unattached. It's their rioting gear - dark clothing, Converse shoes - that blurs the lines. Their leitmotif is the hate against "Cops, Pigs, Murderers," equivalent to [the french variant] "CRS, SS." At the foot of the graffiti-covered brown walls of the University, behind which they regroup in between street clashes, they speak nothing but this language. The institute, which serves them as a camp for regrouping, has galvanized them: it's there that, in 1974, the student revolt which precipitated the fall of the colonels' regime - a military dictatorship which governed greece from 1967 to 1974 - started. Today, the law prohibits law enforcers from breaking in.
This, the night of December 8, is the third continuous white night[/allnighter] for certain people in this advantageous point. They daydream about their turn to overthrow a government, that of center-right Kostas Karamanlis which is actually in power right now.
They hold this government responsible for corruption & for [promoting] social inequality. Responsible also for their starting salaries of 650 euro per month, for their necessity to live together, for many of them, with ther parents until they're 30 years old. "We have no job, no money, a state which falters because of the crisis, & all they offer as an answer is arming the policemen," recaps one of them. "Well, maybe what we do is not right, but at least we're doing something." The burning planks, which keep them warm at each one of the three entrances of the Polytechnic, light up the dark circles underneath their eyes more than their barricades. Because, [this day also] as the days before & apart from fighting, they have also demonstrated within the day on the streets of the capital.
This Monday, the demo started from Omonoia square at the end of the afternoon. But the events have degenerated very quickly, just like yesterday & the day before it. Some assumed a pacifist method. But among them, the "hooded ones" wanted more. This is the most violent night since December 6.
The center of Athens is ravaged in their wake. Inside a perimeter of many square kilometers, which have been cordoned off for the occasion, there are hardly 50 meters which have escaped their destruction. Here, a cinema entirely burned; there, dozens of burning stores. The phone booths are attacked systematically, just like bus stops. The fractured windowshops are innumerable. The christmas tree which was decorating the big central Syntagma square quickly ended up as charcoal. A demonstrator yells through a megaphone "Calm down, guys, calm down!" In vain.
At around 10pm, the demo is dispersing & many return to the HQ. There, in the Polytechnic, where, after many hours of playing the cat & the mouse with the Riot Squad, they cough, they spit, their throat feeling abrassive from the teargas which cover the entire city center. There where there's cries, explosions, screams amidst fire vehicles' sirens which are as numerous as the policemen. But also there where, eventually, in the repossessed cafeteria, one can hope for some lukewarm coffee.
"Maybe you had to depart so that we wake up"
Inside the school's yard, the "civil war" is being organized methodically. In a corner, sheltered from stray looks, a group makes Molotov cocktails. In another one, scooter & motorbike owners do the rounds in the nearby regions. Finally, in yet another corner, one finds the quarter of the "hooded ones," all of them in their black uniform & a bit incisive.
In the seventh & highest floor of one of the buildings deep in the yard, the administration itself is there, reclusive. They're about a dozen, keeping guard in turns. "In the beginning, we were more numerous, but yes, people begin to grow tired," offers by way of explanation the University's vice-president, Gerasimos Spathis. He observes with benevolence, & even with enthusiasm, what happens in his zone.
Mostly because the professorial corps, as well as the University's administrative body, have been profoundly opposed to the government, & in particular to its "department privatization" policy, since times immemorial. Hence, with a view of the "hooded ones" who rip slates off the terraces to throw them, Mr. Spathis encourages from the seventh floor where he found a refuge: "This is a lesser evil," he estimates; "if it weren't this way, there'd be deaths." Amidst apartment buildings, at a crossroads of four narrow, dirty streets, flowers & candles have been arranged at the spot where Andreas Grigoropoulos died, on December 6, following a shot fired by a policeman. A notepad with blank pages has also been left there, together with a roll of Scotch tape & four pens.
Dozens of words written & hung on a piece of wall over the candles. A posthumous message: "Have a good trip Andrea. Maybe you had to depart so that we wake up. You'll always be in our hearts, the last innocent blood." On Tuesday, a [secondary school] student demo & another one of teachers have been scheduled in Athens & other large cities, as well as Andreas Grigoropoulos' funeral. On Wednesday, a 24-hour general strike has been announced against government reforms.
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