This is What’s Happening in Greece Right Now

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.

67 thoughts on “This is What’s Happening in Greece Right Now

  1. I hope that history doesn’t repeat itself like it did in 2008 for The murder of a young Alexis Grigoropoulos by police which resulted in large protests and demonstrations, which escalated to widespread rioting, with numerous rioters damaging property and engaging riot police with Molotov cocktails, stones and other objects. Demonstrations and rioting spread to several other cities does not solve anything.

  2. As a Greek person living in Athens let me share my view with you as an insider.

    Your post gives the impression that something major is about to happen since the city is on its feet.
    The city is not on its feet. Sadly, it’s sound asleep. And so is the whole country.

    The riots for the celebration of the ’73 anniversary against dictatorship, are as common as the sun and the sea in Greece. They happen every year.

    The ban of outdoor gatherings and demonstration, again, is a common practice the past couple of years when a significant political figure takes the time to visit the country.

    The case of Romanos, a young student who turned outlaw when his friend Grigoropoulos died by the police on the 6th of December 2008, and who is on strike because they deny him the right to education, gathered around 10.000 people protesting for him this week. The city of Athens has almost 5.000.000 citizens.

    The Syrian refugees have been camped Syntagma (Constitution) Square in the centre of Athens from the 19th of November. It’s well over a week. Do you see any sign of progress? Me neither.

    New budgets due to austerity measures are being discussed, thought through (without people’s opinion on the matter-of course) and approved every year around this time. Do you see anything changing? Me neither.

    All the above is just to show you that the country should be on the streets every day. Unfortunately, it’s not happening. Nothing is moving. I’m here writing about it when I should be in the square offering food and blankets to the refugees.

    Nothing.Is Going.To.Happen.

    Thanx for the hospitality. Sorry for the tone. It has nothing to do with you. It’s just that when you see all that’s wrong piled up on a single post, it really makes you angry.

    Nice blog. Congrats on the freshly pressed!

    1. Maria,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to this. You’re completely right in what you’re saying, and it’s something I’ve heard from a few Greek people whilst I’ve been here. I hope I’ve not done you or the situation here a dis-service.

      As an outsider, it will inevitably feel like the events are more extreme than to someone who is experienced and in tune with the history and politics in Greece. Part of the reason that I’ve written about what’s going on is because I’ve been surprised and saddened at the lack of attention given to what’s happening here by the media back home – as if the crisis has finished and everything is fine now… It’s unbelievable that the Greek Government have been able to just completely ignore the refugees sitting right on their doorstep. I truly hope that real change happens soon.

      Ευχαριστώ πολύ again for sharing.

    2. Hi Maria. I felt like I should reply because we live in the same city and as a result what you are describing is pretty much how I feel most of the time. You can’t really afford to be an optimist living in this country. I protested against the student reforms back in 2006 and 200, left the country, and returned to see that the students still have mostly the same demands. So yes, progress is quite slow, or well, non-existent.Things are bad, and they are only getting worse,of that I have no doubt. The people are either disillusioned, or misguided or just plain ignorant. It’s normal to just be fed up. We fight and fight and carry on, with no results and this has been happening for as long as I’ve been around.

      I began to notice this pattern when I was a student. My memory is pretty bad so I don’t really remember the details but at some point I had a conversation with a fellow course mate where I presented them with this question. Why carry on? why insist when there is no chance of actually achieving something? That was the point, they said; that we insist, nonetheless. Perhaps that’s just being stubborn, but hey, that’s one more person on the street, one out of ten thousand. That was the point.

      I met a co-worker of my mother a few months ago. She said she never used to take any action when she was in uni but she had lately began demonstrating quite a lot. She was a bit tipsy and there was a kind of sincerity in her words that I found touching. She obviously wasn’t having some sort of middle-age crisis that brought out the teen rebel in her. ‘I do it because this is our fault. The fault of my generation’, she said,’ and it’s my duty to correct that. I owe it to you. Your generation’.

      So basically this is how I manage: this is not only about us. It’s not about how we feel. This is about the people around us. Not the ones who represent us, not the journalists that occupy the tv panels, not any of the guys living off their parents’ money, their main concern in life being how to spend their Saturday night. It’s about people like that woman, like the girl I knew who got her arm fractured while protesting seven years ago and was back on the street the next day. It’s for people like Romanos-whether you agree with his political views or not-who are willing to die in order to defend their rights. It’s about the Syrians and any people who are in and out of this country fighting because that’s the only choice they’ve got.

      I am aware of how melodramatic all this might seem and I assure you, I am not an optimist either. I know how the Greek mentality works and I don’t believe in miracles. But I know that things will change eventually, for better or for worse. It might take five years or it might take fifty. But things will change because that is the nature of things: nothing is permanent. I am sorry for the late-night novella, I tend to get carried away when I write. I guess what I mean to say is: I know, I understand and I agree. This is partially why I wrote all this down; I occasionally need to remind myself why I still bother. Also, don’t feel bad about the blankets; apparently there have been so many offered that some were just put aside.

      Steve, thank you once again! I have found only a couple of mentions of the hunger strikes in foreign news websites. It’s like nothing is mentioned unless it begins with the headline ‘ Riots in the center of Athens’. I am glad that I could refer English-speaking friends to your blog to get some information about what’s going on here.

      1. Thanks so much for taking the time to give such a considered reply.

        I won’t do any of it justice by responding to the content. Instead, I’ll just say this: Part of the reason I’ve felt compelled to write about what is happening is because it’s been so hard to find sources of information in English that give an overview of the whole picture. Like you said, I’ve seen a fair number discussing the trouble of individual days, but not looking at them as a whole.

        Take care this weekend.

    3. Maria first of all if you were a real Greek woman you would know first hand how strong we Greek people are. Second it may be slow happening but progress is being made in Greece you are not a real Greek woman but I am you are so blind you only think we are sound asleep. Nobody’s sleeping in Greece and as far as riots and the Greek economy is concerned it may not be so good now but it will get better in time.

    4. it is very interesting to hear about this, as it is barely being reported in Europe (I live in the UK). It is great to hear of your charity efforts toward the refugees too, I know any people would not be so willing… I will reblog this too.
      I am also interested by your view towards seemingly dormant politics, as I feel the same, and see very little action going toward major issues all the time.
      Thank you for commenting!

  3. Another instance where the EU is not so much united. I’m not against the EU. In principal, I am for it. But the way we see it, it’s a lot of s***.

    A few years ago, I met with a lovely greek woman in Berlin. Then, there was a great deal of resentment on both sides – not between us, but between considerable portions of our respective peoples. She had just met with a prospective landlord, who was loudmouthing about how much it bugged him that Germany was bailing out the greek economy with a few Billion Euros, when there were so many projects at home that needed that money more. There was a selection of profanity mixed into this otherwise valid concern, and she went to the hotel for another night instead. And although the Greeks weren’t burning German flags in the streets, Angela Merkel was only a notch better than the Turkish Prime Minister in their public opinion for the austerity demands she attached to the bailout.

    First of all, we Germans needn’t be so greedy. We are the European Economic Powerhouse, and if our funds went into real development, that could make a difference, and everyone would profit. Of course, that would require a strong paradigm shift, a true decentralization. Because the way it is now, there will be no action. The faction sitting at the money stream will get nearly everything.

    I’m not talking communism. I’m talking multi-polarization. A stimulus package for the small, but promising businesses, in the entire Union. The big ones have plenty. They don’t need help. And now this is turning into a rant, when I just wanted to share an anecdote.


  4. Thanks so much Steve for creating the space needed to elaborate and discuss on what seems to be one of the worst periods that this country has confronted.

    Danai, I’m on board with you 100%. We shouldn’t give up. Not one single person, let it be Greek, German, Canadian or any nationality for that matter, should stop fighting for what’s right, anywhere in the world.

    It seems that there are so many more things to say on the matter, but I don´t want to take any more of Steve´s place here.

    To all the people who expressed their support, thank you very much! It´s nice to see that there are still people out there. Sometimes you start losing hope on mankind until you experience kindness from total strangers.

    Steve, again a big thank you. Take care! 🙂

    ps:Oh yeah, I forgot yesterday. You are followed my friend!

  5. Hi

    I am from Lebanon. Here some people complain about the general situation and a lot try to migrate and have migrated to many countries in the world.

    What I found out in life out of experience that you can always make change in your life for the better. There is always hope in life and God is generous. If everyone starts to make self development and improvement, he will make forward step to success. You are part of this country and if you can change your life in a positive way trying to get improvements in your personal life , you will get many. The sum of all citizens , will get to be more optimistic about their country.
    Where there is a will , there is a way. Improvement will come step by step with time and not overnight.

    Where there is a will , there is a way.
    Greece and Lebanon are almost neighbors on the Mediterranean sea and their cultures are similar. Let us look at China and South Korea how they developed a lot scientifically and economically.
    We all have mental capabilities like the Korean and the Chinese .

  6. Since im new to wordpress I was testing my site and your site caught my attention, police brutality is here in USA too, shameless government and rulers dictate what’s best for them and not the interest of the citizens, the president Obama is trying to help the poor cus of his background and millions are already hating him for that, May God Bless America, for the rulers are corrupt.

  7. Reading this makes me thankful that I live in the age of the Internet. With just a couple of clicks, I can get the heartfelt opinions of not just journalists from my country out on foreign streets, and not just the leaders of foreign countries giving sound bites… I can get the heartfelt opinions of people living ordinary lives on the other side of the world. Not just one person, but multiple people, providing a textured perspective. Truly, my life is better than that envisioned for the gods of my ancestors. Thank you for reminding me of this, everyone.

  8. It is always interesting to hear this type of information- as our media outlets don’t typically give “us” any of it. Even in this time of social media freedom. Thank you for sharing, and thank you Maria for your insight as well. Please keep us posted.

  9. Libertarian, Marxist response to power of corporatism

    Greece is back in crisis, and the reason is that none of the issues surrounding its economy were ever resolved in the first place. Edward weighs in. Don Boudreaux, professor of economics at George Mason University, gives his take on why only 1 percent of midterm voters polled the US economy as “excellent” and why the social mood in America seems weak. Richard Wolff, visiting professor of international affairs at the New School gives a different view on why Americans don’t feel generally positive about the economy. And in the Big Deal, Edward is joined by RT’s Ameera David to discuss Amazon’s and Facebook’s moves into understanding our offline habits

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