Athens – 12 days of protests, not Christmas

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My trip to Athens for a conference (the Global Forum for Media Development – a terrific event, see earlier posts) was long by normal conference trip standards – 5 nights.  And now it feels like I’ve been back for a long time, lots has happened. Yet the riots, which started the night before I left for Athens, are still going on. Twelve days is a long time.

On our last day, some of us finally left the hotel during daylight, walked around the Acropolis (closed, due to a completely unrelated strike) and through downtown. Next to the Acropolis, we passed a TV crew. As soon as we stopped to look at the view they came to ask if we spoke English. So 3 of us agreed to give interviews – they were thrilled we think to hit the jackpot. My friend Manana said “As a Russian, I am deeply envious of the Greeks. That people would go out on the streets, so quickly in such numbers, because of the death of a single boy, not famous, someone they didn’t know, is amazing to me. Of course, I don’t like the violence, but I watched the funeral, which was peaceful. So many people! In Russia, this many people wouldn’t come out even for a famous journalist who was killed.” (don’t believe her? Believe the BBC: Thousands of mourners have attended the funeral in Athens of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, the 15 year old boy whose killing by a policeman, has sparked four days of rioting across Greece.12/9/08 vs. Hundreds of mourners have attended the funeral in Moscow of the investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya who was killed on Saturday 10/10/06).

Near the Acropolis we bought some RADICALLY reduced souvenirs. Tthey had lots of kitschy stuff with the popular gods and goddesses, but only one depiction of Persephone, a heavy marble statue of her and Hades which I had decided to resist because it was 37 euros, but then they told me it was marked down to 15 so I had to do it.  Then walked through the shopping district to the square where the city’s big xmas tree had been burned to a crisp (we had been invited to join the Mayor at its lighting ceremony Sunday night  – that got cancelled of course).

Saw a few protesters basically hanging out in front of Parliament, at one point a small group (couple dozen) started chanting something and marching toward the driveway. A group of riot police reluctantly scrambled into formation, making a line across the driveway with their big plastic shields and the demonstrators stood and yelled at them. It seemed as if they had become street theater for the tourists. Apparently later in the day there were some skirmishes again and the taxi driver this morning told me there were related protests in other cities in Europe.
Xmas postcard forwarded by a friend, all other images by my pal Marjorie Rouse, more here.

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