You might not have heard, but thousands of people have been taking to the streets of Greece over the past few weeks.
Despite the impact of the economic crash on the country initially garnering significant media attention, the longer lasting effects have not seen the same level of interest.
Passionate demonstrations are not out of the ordinary in Greece, but this year they have been particularly heated. The cooler weather in November has also brought with it a series of events that have heightened the tension in an already troubled corner of the European Union.
Students in Athens have already faced a number of conflicts with the authorities, one of which was over attempts to mark the anniversary of the 1973 uprising against the military dictatorship. (Some pictures available here) Already fraught relationships with the police have deteriorated even further, through aggression and the liberal use of force. Protesters have been met with tear gas, stun grenades, and claims of ‘thuggish’ behaviour against dissenters.
This weekend sees the culmination of a number of factors which could result in a terrible perfect storm.
- Friday 5th December sees a State visit by the Turkish Prime Minister, in amongst political controversy over Turkish actions in the Aegean.
- Greek police have reportedly imposed a ban on ‘outdoor gatherings and demonstrations’ from 3pm on Friday to the same time the following day.
- Saturday 6th December marks the six year anniversary of the fatal shooting of 15 year old student Alexis Grigoropoulos, which sparked huge riots across the country in 2008.
- A friend of Grigoropoulos who was with him at the time – Nikos Romanos – is currently imprisoned and has been on hunger strike for around 25 days. Thousands of people have already taken to the streets just days ago to show solidarity, with violence erupting afterwards.
- Syrian refugees have been camped outside of the Greek Parliament in Syntagma Square for over a week, engaged in a hunger strike to gain political recognition from the Government.
- The Greek Parliament is set to decide on a contentious new budget for 2015 on Sunday
Greece is already sitting on a social powder-keg, with increasing pressure from the EU to implement further austerity measures despite sky high unemployment rates. It could be that the aggregation will spill over into violence, despite the thousands of police set to be deployed. Hopefully this won’t be the case.
Edit: You should be sure to read this thoughtful comment from Maria, below.