Iraq: 15 February – Greece – Biggest demonstrations in 25 years

Yesterday, as all over the world, Greece saw enormous anti war demonstrations.

15 February. No to war in Iraq. cwi reports from around the world. Greece.

Biggest demonstrations in 25 years

In Athens around 300,000, if not more, people demonstrated against the war in Iraq. Undoubtedly this demo was the biggest of the last 23 – 25 years in Athens, and probably since the fall of the military in 1974. It was almost double the size of the demo and general strike that took place in April 2001.

The start of the demonstration in Athens nearly turned ugly following clashes between police and a few anarchists. It led to members of the elite police unit launching tear gas grenades on sections of the demo where many families with young children had gathered. However, even this unprovoked police attack failed to destroy the mood and coherence of the demonstration.

The anger of young people to the PASOK government was shown when some young activists threw yogurt at the Secretary of the social democratic PASOK, who was on the protest. Youth were particularly enraged by his comments that PASOK is part of the anti-war movement but he did not explain why the PASOK government has given over the use of military bases to US imperialism in preparation for their war against Iraq.

People of all ages were to the demo: old and young workers, immigrants and especially youth of all ages. The Xekinhma (CWI in Greece) contingent had around 300 people on it and was extremely lively. The majority were school and university students and immigrants. These groups held up their own placards with slogans against war and racism. The slogans written on Xekinhma banners said "International resistance to war – another world is possible, the Socialist one" and "ya basta – no war".

In Thessaloniki, 25,000 people demonstrated against the war. The Greek Social Forum (GSF – a Left coalition in which Xekinhma participates) contingent was the biggest one. Our comrades participated in two contingents: in the GSF delegation, and also amongst a contingent of 1000 university students from a Left coalition, in which we play a very important role (this was the liveliest contingent of the demo). This was one of the biggest demos since 1990 and it could be compared only with the big protests in 1991 (schools occupations) and in 1996 (a national demo during teachers strike).

In Volos the protest was 3000 – 3500 strong, making it the biggest for 14 years after the demo of 5000 school students in 1999. This is an enormous number of people for Volos. Our comrades were at the head of the demo leading the contingent of the university students union from the city. They were dressed in white (to simulate corpses) and photos and film footage of the stunt were seen on front page of all local newspapers and on the local TV.

Xekinhma members are extremely pleased by what we managed to achieve in these three cities. We sold almost 500 newspapers and 130 school student s newspapers.

Apart from demonstrations in these three cities, anti-war protests took place in 30 other cities and almost 60,000 people participated in these.

The next big date for the movement in Greece is the 1 March summit of EU Ministers of Education in Athens (Greece has the presidency of EU until June).

We will continue our anti-war campaign for a general strike the Day X and for a big anti-war demo in Athens on 14 March, when the summit of the EU Defence Ministers will take place. The anti-war mood is very high in Greece and it is possible that a two-day "siege" of the American military base in Crete will be organised.

Christine Ziaka and Dimitris Pantazopoulos, Athens

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February 2003