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Posts Tagged ‘12M’

Cleaning Syntagma

In Athens, Greece on 15 May 2012 at 11:25

Athens, May 15

Comrades Cansino and Aristocrates

Dear people,

The comfort of the squat is dangerous for the revolutionary spirit. Especially when there is little of it. It’s evening and we’re sitting together in the living room, a dozen marchers. In the small kitchen, Mami is cooking for her hijos de puta. The cloud of spicy smoke is so thick that it’s hard to read the writings on the walls.

It’s the first time that our clan has a roof, sofas, a kitchen, a shower to call our own. At least for the moment. After half a year of camping, people enjoy it. And no-one will deny that we didn’t deserve it.

But on the other hand, it’s 15M’s eve. Tomorrow we celebrate the first anniversary of our movement, and right now there is a handful of our people holding the square of Syntagma.

I have been there the first two nights, and I’ll be damned if I don’t join them now. So I rise up from the soft pillows of the sofa, I cut my way through the cloud of smoke, and I go. “Later, people. I’m going to see what’s cooking on Syntagma.”

It’s a twenty minute walk. When I arrive, I see we occupied the center of the square. People with sleeping backs and covers are gathered in a circle. I squeeze in, I lie down and I listen to humming of the conversation as I start to doze off.

Just when I’m about to get some sleep, police arrive. Two dozen officers in riot gear. Because of the blankets, this is considered camping in a public space, and we have to move.

We are not the only ones. All over Athens, thousands of homeless people are ‘camping’ as well. They are more every day.

We take away blankets and sleeping bags. We leave the cardboard. We lock arms and legs together and we humm. It takes as while, but in the end police retreat. We take our stuff again, and we stay in Syntagma for the third night in a row.

The third night in Syntagma

After the retreat of police

Occupy the tree

In the morning, at six, it’s police again for the wake up call. We have to move, seriously this time. The reason is that the sprayers come to clean the square.
We stay put. Riot police is deployed on two sides, and then they send in the cleaning car to put us pressure.

In a white cloud, the water vapour bounces of the tiles of Syntagma. The machine moves slowly towards the group. People start to evacuate, to try and safe their stuff. It could have ended right there. Indignados simply washed away from Syntagma as yesterday’s dirt.

This morning, 15M.

The sprayers arrive

But it didn’t end that way. The real heroine of the day was comrade Sabina from Belgium. She laid herself down in the streaming water in front of the spraying vehicle. And the firm look in her eyes said she wasn’t going to move.

It was the key moment. Max joins in and others follow. Comrade Cansino takes a bath straight in front of the vehicle and comrade Aristocrates plays the guitar. It’s a fabulous scene. And it’s true what they say. Our movement has an innate taste for drama and beauty.

Comrade Sabina, resisting the water

Comrade Cansino

Then police proceeds to evacuate, hesitatingly. They don’t really know how to handle us. If we were a band of hard core anarchists they would have just beaten us off the square and into the bus in ten minutes time. But these crazy foreign pacifists are different. They have to be handled with gloves. Plastic gloves to be exact.

The first people get dragged away. But just before they get to the police car, others come running in and piling up. Police have to start all over again. First, they surround the pile. Sabina got left out, but today she has revolutionary spirit for ten. She charges the police like a wild horse, demanding access to the circle.

Comrade Sabina charging the police

In the end the arrest took more than two hours. About a dozen people resisted, passionately. I didn’t add to their numbers. I preferred to document the scene and spread the news.

Today is the first anniversary of our movement. Here in Athens the marchers and locals on Syntagma marked it appropriately with a determined act of resistance. Not so much against police, but better, against the water.

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Dust in the Wind

In Athens, Greece on 14 May 2012 at 11:35

Athens, May 14

Dear people,

More or less we managed to hold the group together up until May 12, the day of the worldwide demonstration for direct democracy. It was in greater part thanks to our position in Strefi park on the hill of Exarchia.

The hill consists of two outer ridges and a little valley in between. In the valley, there’s the stone theater, and inside the theater we camped. There was water at 50 metres. If you climbed up the two peaks, you could watch out over the city down to the sea. If you descended, you were in the middle of Exarchia.

Yes, it was a perfect spot for a camping holiday in Athens, if you leave out of account that the park is frequented day and night by drug addicts and other phantomatic appearances.

 

 

 

 

Comrade Juanito

After a week, we were definitely ready to break up camp. The way it happened was a bit sad, but given all that happened before, it made sense.

On the 11th, we held one of our last internal assemblies at Strefi. Maybe half of the marchers was present. We spoke about the last issue that had to be addressed. The great demonstration of May 12, which we had announced in all the cities and villages along the way.

Last internal assembly at Strefi

The 12M call is a worldwide one, in line with the demonstrations of October 15 last year, but it seems to be picked up mainly by the indignados in Spain and the occupiers from the Anglo-Saxon world.

In Greece, the call for a demonstration has barely even arrived. And that more or less left us, the remnants of the march to Athens, to ‘represent’ Syntagma when we connect to the other squares.

What are we going do?

There will be no demonstration through the streets, there will be no actions. It has been a long time since we had energy or spirit for those kind of things. We will just assemble in Syntagma. And then what? Are we going to try to camp? Are we going to sleep without tents? Are we going to resist? Up to what point? Etc.

The assembly gets interrupted by comrade Marianne. She tells us that we are expected at the ‘Legalise’ festival on the edge of the city, right now.

It was true. But the assembly hesitated. Then it started to drizzle, and people made up their mind. The assembly split up, and over half of the people who remained took down their tents and left for the festival.

You will know that I am all for this legalise thing, we should have gone there and adapted our time schedule, but I hated to see the group fall apart like this, hardly without a word.

I stayed behind. The day of the 12th I spent on the hill around the ailing camp, prey to heavy attacks of melancholy.

Melancholy

Some people trickled back to Strefi during the day. A new assembly was called for, to prepare the great demonstration.

We were about a dozen people, of whom maybe six marchers. We were expected to be in Syntagma at five. It was four thirty when the assembly commenced.

First point, we hadn’t made flags or banners yet, or anything else in the week we were here. Second point, a leftover from the day before. What are we going to do?

At a certain moment, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing any more. Was this a comedy, or were we really trying to maintain a certain air of official assemblary protocol, as if there were still things to talk about or to decide, or to consensuate?

Outside forces had already taken over. We were in the final stages of a big crunch. Five o’ clock had already passed and we were still here, taking speaking turns, making technical interruptions, proposing, blocking, explaining, with the utmost seriousness. The only thing that missed was someone who proposed to take acts, like we used to do when we still believed our assemblies were important.

I think of Hitler’s final days in the bunker. When all fronts had ceded and Berlin was surrounded by the Russians, he kept moving armies that no longer existed, he kept planning the final offensive, he kept believing in the Endsieg.

I leave the assembly, I walk down the hill and through Exarchia to go to Syntagma on my own. We are like a fly, and Athens is a light. Here the March to Athens burns up, and we scatter, like dust in the wind.

On the square, the Athens branch of the 12M demonstration consisted of about thirty people, fifty at most. In greater part they are people from the march. There are a few locals, and also our friends from all along the way have come to meet us. Not all of them are here, unfortunately, but many of them kept their promise.

We put up our old banners and we make music. We have a direct connection with the squares in London, Madrid and Barcelona. I see images of Puerta del Sol full of people, and I look around at Syntagma. Last year I was on the other side of the line and we looked at this square. Monstrous crowds of people were besieging parliament day after day.

That season is over for Greece. There will be no spring this year. Maybe there will in Spain, in Portugal, in America. The images and the news from there leave us a bit of hope. Just like the presence of one of the German marchers who came from Patras in ten days, arriving today. Their march really existed in the end, and there’s someone here to prove it.

As our final theatrical act, we decide to stay on Syntagma. And this time, police allow it.

Camping on Syntagma, May 12

 

We occupied the square all night. In the morning, after we were woken up by rain, the first tents were placed by Max and Mary. They caused a last piece of discord in the group, because the decision wasn’t taken in assembly. The tents lasted until midday more or less, when the sun was shining again. Police walked by several times to get donuts, and initially the tents were simply ignored.

Tents on Syntagma, morning of May 13

After three donuts police came to say the tents had to go down. Max and Mary took out the supports and left them on the ground. A platoon of riot police was mobilised. They stood there for an hour. Finally the tents were folded.

I left to pick up my stuff on the hill. When I come back in the early evening everyone has gone to the Academy of Plato, for  a chat on alternative economies, organic agriculture, bargain etc. No-one was left but comrade Cansino, who took up the name of Kourasmenos when he came to Greece. It means ‘tired’, in Spanish ‘curas menos’, means ‘you do less’. He was sitting under a tree watching around, angry that he was left here alone, without a beer, to watch over other people’s stuff.

Comrade Cansino, a.k.a. ‘Kourasmenos’

I accompany him. The clan is split between the squat, the academy, the square, and who knows where else. Our camp on the hill has definitely been abandoned. It’s maybe the worst day of the march, or the agora, whatever. Officially we have three more days of agora scheduled, even though we don’t know exactly what’s planned for those days.

One of the ideas was to stay in Syntagma. At the moment we are two, during the evening also Nicolas and Juanito return. We are four marchers and two sympathisers who hold the square for the second night in a row. An old lady takes pity on us and brings us a bag of crisps and sweets.

This is what our revolution has become. A handful of people from all over Europe desperately camping in Syntagma. We have come to give moral support to the Greeks, but in the end it’s the Greeks who had to give their moral support to us, to keep us going. And now, finally, the end is near. It’s all in the past, and it weighs down like clouds of marble.

It takes a long time before we catch a bit of sleep. Then at five o’clock in the morning, the sprinklers go on.

Barricades on Syntagma

 

The second morning.