First EU summit protest in Greece
by tristan 10:25pm, Thursday June 19 2003

Protest energetic but calm as anarchists and others prepare for two days of intense protests

(A Miracle in Greece)

Today we held the first demonstration in Thessalonica, Greece versus the European Union summit. There was a march organized by anarchist groups and one organized by the Greek Social Forum. Both marches were planned to be calm marches in support of immigrant rights. The Social Forum march started at 7:00 while the anarchist march left from the Aristotle University at 6:00. The Anti-Authoritarian Movement handed out small flags on thick poles to their members and formed lines across the front and back and to a lesser degree the sides. 3,000 — 4,000 anarchists participated, mostly younger Greeks but also many foreigners. Many worried that pointlessly destructive groups would start riots with the police. We did not want this since we need to save our energy for the next two days and amazingly it did not happen. We passed through immigrant neighborhoods to a generally positive response, especially among the kids. Riot police wearing gas masks and holding teargas grenades were soon seen on almost all side streets but did not interfere with the march. A light rain started and spray painters covered many walls and such with anarchist slogans. More police became visible and a huge army blocked our path. We turned early to avoid a confrontation and were on the main road to the University. Police were on all the side streets and people threw some rocks and water bottles but others calmed this down while others spray-painted over all the boarded up shops. Some security cameras were torn down or painted over and the KKE communist sign was smashed. At 8:00 we ran into the march of the Greek Social Forum. We were both stuck for a bit but then they turned and marched while we waited. They had about 8,000 people who were mostly communists, also with stout flags, and some immigrant groups. The US war on Iraq was also heavily denounced on banners and signs. After the Social Forum passed we continued our march to the university. Kitchens served food for donations while some worked on computers and others wait for the party and concert to start.

Tomorrow will not be calm at all. The less violent action is a caravan to the Macedonian border to assist people in coming to Greece and then hold a demo in the closest town. The other action will try to get to the EU summit, if that's where the decisions that affect all EU residents are being made then that is where we should be. We will also caravan in busses, both anarchists and the Social Forum and try to breach the red zone. Police will obviously try to stop us and there will be a battle.

On Saturday many groups are calling for demonstrations. The Social Forum will march. The anarchists will try to get to the US Embassy and Eurohouse. The Stalinist KKE communists will also march in the tens of thousands and will also march to the US/EU area and vow to stop other groups from disrupting their action. Anarchist groups will use molotovs, rocks and sticks against police using teargas and sticks and maybe there will be clashes with communists as well.

We will see what the next two days will bring. People in other parts of the world should consider holding solidarity demos if the repression gets too bad.

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More info on why you should oppose the European Union.

Stop The European Union

Starting on Friday, June 19, planned massive protests will be evidence of European residents opposition to the European Union (EU). The EU will be having a three-day summit near Thessalonica in Greece. While many in the US may not see the problems of the EU and may see it as a lesser evil than the US government, its problems are numerous. It is an institution that was carefully constructed, like the WTO, to insulate the rulers from the people and still claim to be democratic. While EU citizens vote for the European Parliament, the real power is held by the European Council and the European Commission. These bodies are appointed by heads of state and the European Parliament is only able to make proposals and has no veto power over eventual laws. The European Parliament will not participate in the summit, because they don't actually make decisions. The European people have lost power to an institution. The EU has become a huge bureaucracy in Brussels. Local people should be solving local problems. All governments are bad, but centralizing power is far worse.

The EU was formed from three financial unions which joined in order to be able to make more money. Its goal seems to be to gain world economic power using the new Euro currency in order to be more competitive with the US. Large European corporations have become the main winners. They ship their products across borders at will while local producers are pushed out of business.

Some countries, primarily Germany and France, dominate while claiming that all are equal. Now the EU is set to expand from 15 to 25 countries. The new members will be primarily Eastern European countries, politically and economically weak. So far in the EU the richer countries have become richer at the expense of countries such as Spain and Portugal. This will continue as more poorer countries are added. This situation is basically a NAFTA for Europe and the EU is actually expanding to compete with NAFTA and the upcoming FTAA. The EU deceptively uses the strategy of capitalism with a human face. Thus, unlike NAFTA, EU citizens can live and work in any EU country. As poor countries have joined, thousands have moved to richer countries in search of a way to survive. This is not a real solution to inequalities of wealth.

Militarization is also a key feature. The new Rapid Deployment Force is being built up to compete with the US armed forces. Its budget was just raised from 24 to 27 billion a year. Centralization of the police and the expansion of their powers to all of Europe, has led to a loss of local control and oversight.

The EU passes laws that affect millions of people in very diverse situations. Blanket laws will be worsen conditions in many countries. It is difficult to oppose new laws since they have to be opposed on a EU wide level. As a governing body the EU is very centralized while unions, NGO?s, activists and civil society groups are divided by region. The EU has imposed many huge infrastructure projects that damage the environment. These projects are often opposed by local people and even sometimes the governments of countries where they are built. This one country opposition does not necessarily affect the EU bureaucracy at all.

This year's summit will be in Greece. The government of Greece is supposedly socialist but every day it becomes more conservative. It has been in power for eight years and will continue its neoliberal programs. Also the political situation of Greece has been massively affected by a seven-year dictatorship in the 70?s that was supported by the US. Greece is now preparing for the Summer Olympics, to be held next year. Public space has been taken over and homes threatened with demolition to make room for the games. One of the only parks in Athens was recently fenced in, restricting access, and cameras and guards will soon be in place. On Saturday, June 14, people tore down the fences for the third time and rioted when police tried to stop them.

The EU summit's main topic is immigration and new members. While EU citizens are free to move about, the EU has worked tirelessly to strengthen its exterior borders to refugees and economic migrants. This situation is called Fortress Europe by many. Before the EU a refugee could attempt to get to the country of their choice before asking for asylum. Now they are forced to do so in the first EU country they get to. The newly joining Eastern European countries will become a buffer for the richer Western countries. Thus, refugees who speak the language of their former colonial masters will not be allowed to claim asylum in these countries, but instead in places like Poland and Hungary. Forming a single centralized database of immigrants is high on the EU?s list of priorities. The European Union's freedom, welfare and democracy policies don't have enough room for everyone.

So many will protest. This world is ours and we plan to take it. On Thursday, June 19, we will march through Thessalonica for rights for all immigrants. On Friday we will take busses 80 miles to the Chalkidiki Peninsula to try to enter the Red Zone and have a chat with the EU bureaucrats to discuss what kind of world we want to live in. On Saturday we will again be in Thessalonica with huge marches.

Greece is not a country known for non-violent action. Violence on the part of demonstrators and police is expected. Protestors are preparing, but thousands of police and soldiers have also been mobilized to make sure the bureaucrats sip their cocktails and dominate the planet in peace. Police may also take pre-emptive action as they have at other EU summits. People in other parts of the world should think about planning solidarity demonstrations if the situation gets too bad or if protestors are killed.

thessaloniki reports |