Remember, remember the 6th of December

Alex GrigoropoulosThe hunger strike of an anarchist prisoner and the reaction on the streets are rekindling long-standing conflicts in Greek society going back to 1944.

The Greek streets have been relatively quiet of late. After four years of devastating economic depression and continued state repression, the revolutionary zeal that once animated the spectacular mobilizations of the early years of the crisis has since given way to a widespread sense of despondence. This may now be changing. Students and anarchists have been mobilizing in force in recent weeks to show their solidarity with Nikos Romanos, the anarchist prisoner who has been on hunger strike since November 10.

Both Nikos’ struggle and the response on the streets are laden with symbolic significance and historical resonance. In fact, the month of December has long brought out the best in the Greek resistance; and the worst in terms of the state’s reaction. Six years ago, on December 6, 2008, two special police officers rolled into the neighborhood of Exarchia — the well-known anarchist stronghold of Athens — and, following a brief altercation with a group of teenagers, murdered the 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos with a fatal shot through the heart. Fate has it that Nikos was there that night. Alexis was his best friend. He died in his arms.

The murder of Alexis sparked a month of intense rioting on the Greek streets. Schools, universities and empty buildings were occupied across the country as popular assemblies popped up in the most unexpected places. The establishment newspaper Kathimerini referred to the December 2008 riots as “the worst Greece has since since the restoration of democracy in 1974.” An ominous prophecy was scribbled onto an Athenian wall in those days, one that was to portend the intense social unrest and mass demonstrations that were to follow in the 2010-’12 debt crisis. It simply read: “we are an image from the future.”

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