Posts Tagged ‘agora athens’

End of the Wave

In #GlobalRevolution, Athens, Greece, March to Athens on 20 May 2012 at 22:33

Athens, May 20

Dear people,

Our tribe is settling down. We are starting to adapt to the comforts and complications of sedentary life. A new cycle has begun, an old one has been concluded.

We have running water, we have electricity, we have four stories and a roof terrace in the middle of the anarchist quarter of Exarchia. We are not in a hurry to move.

Most of us are waiting for the trial of our comrades who got arrested for occupying Syntagma. After that, there are no limits, no borders.

North, East, South, West. Some of us want to go cycling to France through the Balcans, or hitch hiking through Iran to China, or sailing to Alexandria, or flying back to Spain to occupy Plaça Catalunya, or the Puerta del Sol. The sense of freedom is overwhelming.

It’s too much. I have to sit down for a moment. I want a sofa, a pile of straw, a hammock, or why not? – a real bed! Before I do anything, I need time to reflect. This is already the beginning of another story. The first year is over. We were a wave, and now we are backwash on the beach.

On Syntagma

Washing day at the squat

So I ask myself, what on earth happened this past year? The last thing I remember is that I had embarked on a quiet life as a goat shepherd in Andalusia, which I combined with a translation assignment from a Dutch editor. I was living the rhythm of the season on the land, I was learning to make cheese.

Then it started. We all called it a revolution.

When I came out of the metro station and on to the Puerta del Sol on May 21 at dawn, it was reflection day before the local elections. There were hundreds of people camping out on the public square, demanding direct democracy and a whole lot more.

This wasn’t just going on in Madrid, but all over the country. It was spreading over other nations, over other continents.

There was no central organisation, it had come as a complete surprise to everyone, and I found myself right in the middle of it. I had to stay, I had to be part of this. I felt the pulse of history.

When I sat down in the tent of the Communications commission under the backside of the equestrian statue in Puerta del Sol, I was pretty sure that it could take some time before I would go back to being a shepherd.

Now I’m here in the squat in Exarchia with my revolutionary brothers and sisters. I occupy the sofa, I’m not planning to move, and for the moment I only recall isolated images of last year.

The siege of parliament and the bowl of salad floating over the crowd. The drums of the Basque column arriving in Segovia. The advance to Paris and the surprise assembly on Place de la Bourse. The dice wars in Revolutionary Headquarters Brussels. The occupied Christmas tree on St. Peter’s square in Rome. The snow in Naples. The phantom village in the Apennine mountains. The shores of Greece. The alleys of Agrinio.

And most of all, the people.

I have started to forget their names by the dozens, but I recall the faces. Hundreds, thousands probably. All over the world we were millions. This was the year of the people. This was the year of Sol, the rising sun.

Assembly of Greeks on time banking at Thisio

Comrades Mami and Valentina

On Exarchia square.

I have followed the events daily from as close by as I possibly could without losing focus. I rode the wave of this movement from the magic start in Puerta del Sol, all through Europe on foot to Brussels and Athens. And I’m happy that I did. The amount of things I witnessed and experienced was more than enough to fill a lifetime.

I leave this account. It’s jotted down the way it came. It wasn’t written from the perspective of a journalist or a historian. I didn’t try to be objective, I couldn’t. I’m a revolutionary, and I’m a narrator. I wrote this story to capture the spirit of the moment, day after day. And it turned out to be more than just one kind of story.

It’s the chronicle of a utopian village in the center of Madrid. It’s a revolutionary manifesto. It’s an adventure tale, complete with sequel. It’s a sociological study into human interaction and self organisation. It’s an anthropological study into the functioning of an urban nomadic tribe. It’s a practical guide to assemblary politics and manipulation. It’s a travel account through time and space. Occasionally, it carries hints of mystery and fairytale.

We sit on the sofa in Exarchia. It’s over. But we can just keep on going if we want to. No destination on earth is too far to get there on foot.

We could also go home, back to reality.


“Yes, as in working fixed hours to pay for a rent or a mortgage.”

“Do you want to go back to that after all that has happened?”

It’s the big question that has been bothering every one of us. And most of us know that it’s impossible. We cannot go back to reality. Not until we give shape to reality ourselves.


Lady Anarchy. Photo by comrade Lorenzo

Post scriptum.

This ends my account of the march and the first year of revolution. I hope to put it up soon in a chronological and more accessible format. In the meantime I will take a break to rest and reflect. I will keep reporting on the movement, and on my adventures for as far as they are of public or revolutionary interest. Thank you all for reading. It has been a pleasure to write.

Yours truly,


Free Again

In Athens, Greece on 16 May 2012 at 19:31

Athens, May 16

Dear people,

During one of her previous periods of decline there lived a great philosopher in Athens. He was called Diogenes. He had the fame of being one of the wisest men of Greece, but he didn’t care for fame. In fact, he didn’t care for anything at all. He was a cynic. To him the world was evil and corrupt, and all the rest was vanity. In his view there is nothing worth pursuing, we might as well live like wild dogs on the square. And that was what Diogenes did. He lived in a barrel on the agora, and he used the bushes as a toilet. To few people he spoke about the suffering of world, and most of the others ignored him.

It is with genuine cynical spirit that the march to Athens occupied Syntagma on the evening of May 14.

The next morning the square was cleaned and the people who resisted were rounded up and dragged away. They remained cynic until the very end.

Establishing the exact number of people who were arrested on May 15 at Syntagma is a task that I leave in good faith to future generations of historians. I think they were 13. But I keep remembering faces of which I don’t know if I included them in the count.

Those faces haunt me in my dreams. I was there, they had wanted me to avoid arrest and take note of their full names just before they got dragged away. I didn’t catch all of them. And now I see them come by, those faces. They form a human pile, they are guarded by zombies. Desperately, they scream. First names, second names, ‘Oscar! Write them down! Don’t forget us!’. I do what I can, but they’re too many. They are more and more.

The faces change like mixing paint. They become dogs. They start barking, louder and louder, and I don’t understand. The zombies begin tearing them away. A van of the municipal dog catcher is waiting. One after another they are thrown into the vehicle. They howl their names. They know they won’t come back. ‘Remember!’ they say. Then the car rides off, but I can’t figure it out. I drop my notebook and I wake up screaming.

It’s May 16. The agora is over. I’m in the squat. After 24 hours an unknown number of comrades is still under arrest. I go look for news.

All day long I’m like a pinball moving between the square, the squat and the internetpoint. And everytime I get to one of those places I have a feeling that the latest news has just flown away.

What’s left are the rumours. Our comrades are going to be judged, people say. Immediately and without ado. No translations, no lawyers, no reasonable doubt. Guilty in the first degree, within hours after arrest.

‘Guilty of what?’ I ask. But there is no count, there is no need for it. They are guilty in general.

I don’t believe it. I go look for more rumours. If they don’t come back, then I’m guilty myself. I didn’t take all of their names.

‘Resistance against the authority’ is the next rumour. After arresting all those people, police had to make up a reason. Foreign media were asking for it. The second count was ‘Crimes against the environment’. As if we were Shell in the Niger delta.

It’s outrageous. We camped on a hundred squares, we always left them cleaner than how we found them, and now the Athens police dare to accuse us of littering in public.

Other rumours said the third count was ‘conspiracy against the security of the state’. I don’t want to believe it, but I can’t help it. I’m convinced they don’t stand a chance, and it’s all my fault.

I go out. For some reason I can’t get my hand on the facts today. Everybody knows more than me. Greater part of the group went to visit them in the police station, and I haven’t even been able to find out where it is.

No facts, not one of them. I get high on rumours. I want more and more. And when someone calls me, I pimp them up and pass them on.

When I get back to the squat another time, the prisoners have already been transferred to a maximum security penitentiary on the island Samos. Some of them are said to be collaborating with authorities to avoid the worst, some are about to be extradicted to the United States. Of the others, no news at all.

It has been thirty hours. The latest rumour that reaches me is also the most ridiculous one. ‘Everyone is free.’

This time I really don’t believe it any more. I take a siesta, and only hours later it turns out it was true. Everybody is free.

As far as I understand, it has been a classic bureaucratic farce. Some didn’t have ID on them, and they gave up a false name with false data. None of the data was checked. On the other hand, everyone had to give fingerprints. Four people refused. They were put under psychological pressure when they were told that they could get ‘one and a half years of prison’ for failure to cooperate.

While a small concert was organised in Syntagma to mark the end of the agora, our comrades were taken from one police station to the other, and finally scattered over five different locations. They hardly got anything to eat for 24 hours.

The embassies of France, Italy and Spain were mobilised. France and Italy didn’t really care for their citizens. Spain offered all possible assistance.

Today around noon there was a preliminary hearing in front of a judge. When police saw how much public showed up, they were suddenly a lot more friendly towards our comrades. Various lawyers had offered to defend them for free. The one who was present was a notorious communist. He held a passionate speech which ended with the word ‘laos’, ‘the people’. Hardly anyone understood, but everybody applauded. Riot police was on standby right outside the door.

The judge sighed. He wasn’t in the mood. Accusations too v ague, and too much trouble with translations. ‘Come back in a week’.

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.


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.

Democracy and Revolution

In Athens, Greece on 10 May 2012 at 12:57

Athens, May 10

Dear people,

While many of us keep chilling on the hill, or wandering through the desolate city, Agora Athens is going on, every day. Surely it’s not a big event, but it’s an event. We were told to nurture no illusions about it, so the fact that it exists is definitely positive.

It’s all thanks to the people who kept believing in this opportunity to meet and exchange ideas. They have been working on it for time, on the ground and on the net, and in the last few days they have been putting up manifestoes all over Exarchia.

The agora has attracted some attention from Greek activists, immigrants, and foreign travellers. It has addressed major themes like the debt, immigration, police violence, the dangers of tear gas, and the psychological effects of repression, with interventions by experts on the subject.

Yesterday the agora changed its usual meeting place in Syntagma with the quiet hill of Pnyx near the ancient stoa, meeting place of the philosophers of old. The topic would be direct democracy and self organisation.

The whole scene is like one of Plato’s Dialogues. In between the marble, the bushes and the trees, a few dozen people – mainly Greeks – are sitting in a circle on a hill. They are discussing the concepts of liberty, equality, solidarity, justice, democracy.

Far from Syntagma and the oppressing dailiness of the city all these words sound like perfectly unreal ideas, exactly like Plato himself would see them. This event is not going to change the world, but here on Pnyx, it has a very evocative aesthetic value.

Assembly on direct democracy at Pnyx

Athens is not one of the major cities of Greek tragedy, like Thebes or Mycene, but in the great Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylos, the city symbolically represents the triumph of reason and right.

The Oresteia is the only complete trilogy that has survived. It is practically the oldest pieces of theater, but it has one of the most beautiful opening sequences that I know. It’s a simple summing up of names, as if it were a biblical geneaology. But with a little bit of imagination, those names become incredibly cinematographical. As if the intro were written for wide-screen 3D.

It’s told on stage by the introducing character. Troy has fallen, finally, after ten years of bitter strife. The Greeks are inside the citadel, the Trojan men are killed, the women and children are enslaved and the babies are thrown off the walls without mercy. The palaces are plundered, the city is in flames.

Those flames spell a message, a message by supreme commander Agamemnon, king of Mycene, to his wife Clytaemnestra. It says ‘Mission accomplished. I’m coming home.’

Opening credits. Burning Troy fades into the distance. On a hilltop far away, a guard notices the flames. He runs to pile up wood, he takes a torch and lights it.

The camera zooms out again over the nightly panorama of the Aegean. As the poet spells the names of land and sea, the light travels over islands, hills and forests like a telegraph. In every one of those places a man spots the light, and passes it on. Cut to space, you see all of Greece and Asia Minor, in the middle you see a red glow where Troy had been, and all around you see little white lights expanding over the earth to bring the news that mighty Troy has fallen.

At sunrise, the message reaches Clytaemnestra on her balcony of the royal palace of Mycene.

Cut to Clytaemnestra. Her eyes are dark. She is all but delighted by the news of her husband’s return. She hasn’t been faithful to him.

Agamemnon hadn’t been faithful himself either. He had claimed more than his fair share of female booty during the conflict. His greed had caused Achilles to retire from the war and almost brought complete doom over the Greeks. Finally, he wasn’t ashamed to bring one of his conquests home with him. She was called Cassandra, she had the gift to foretell the future, and she was cursed by the fact that no-one ever believed her.

When she crossed the treshold into the house, Cassandra started to scream. She cried doom, death and destruction over the house of Atreus. But people laughed at her impatiently, and told her to shut up.

Her cruel predictions came true when Agamemnon was killed in his bathtub by his own wife, with the complicity of her lover.

This is when the real story starts. The tragic hero is Oreste, son of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra. He has to avenge his father. And his perverted fate is that to do so, he has to kill his own mother.

In a certain sense the Oreste tragedy is a mirror of the tragedy of Oedipus. Oreste would do anything to avoid his fate, but he doesn’t have a choice. He asks the god Apollo for help, and the god confirms. However painful, revenge is a must, and only Oreste can do the job.

And he does. With a dagger, Oreste kills the woman who gave him life. At the instant she dies, the hero breaks down and he is attacked by clouds of black-winged goddesses of remorse, the Erinyes. They swirl around him constantly, hissing that he is the most despicable of all creatures, and that he has committed the gravest of all crimes.

Oreste flees, he is on the verge of going mad, he returns to Apollo, begging to liberate him from his sense of guilt. “I had to do it. You said so yourself. Why don’t you help me?”

And Apollo: “There is nothing I can do for you. You have to go to Athens. Run, boy. Run. In the sanctuary of Athena you will be judged.”

Oreste runs to Athens, to the temple of the goddess of wisdom. Athena herself presides over an assembly that hears the case of Oreste and the case of the Erinyes.

Oreste is absolved. And yet the Erinyes get their recompensation. While Athena orders them to stop harassing Oreste, she acknowledges their importance, she offers them a place in the pantheon and with it the right to be revered.

The piece ends with a triumphant parade to celebrate the victory of reason.

According to Pasolini, who made a splendid translation into Italian, the Oresteia symbolizes the transformation of ancient tribal society based on force to an urban society based on the law. It’s a hymn to Athens as founding city of democracy.

The concept of revolution, of revolt against the ruling system in the name of human principles, is buried even deeper in the human psyche.

It starts with Prometheus, the bringer of fire.

In Aeschylos’ Prometheus Bound, the son of man is nailed to a mountain in the Caucasus. He had brought light among men, he had tought them the arts and the crafts of the gods. And he alone would pay for it all.

Every day Prometheus’ liver is eaten out by an eagle, and every day it grows back again. Crucifixion and eternal torture is his share for stealing the fire.

While he is up in agonising pain, various visitors, gods and humans, try to persuade Prometheus to make his peace with Zeus and ask for forgiveness. But Prometheus sends them off with words of rage and folly.

Where Jesus on the cross stoically accepted his fate, except for a single lament, Prometheus remains defiant all the way, against all hope. He is the archetype of the revolutionary martyr, when he screams with all his fury…

“Go away, and kneel! Fold your hands in prayer and be the dog that licks the foot of power! I don’t give a damn about Zeus! Let him do whatever he wants with the world, his time is almost up! He won’t be the king of gods for long!”


Expanding Darkness

In Athens, Greece on 8 May 2012 at 17:10

Shopping cArt

Athens, May 8

Dear people,

Days are slow in our camp on the hill. The heat signs the time. In the afternoon, people are snoozing on the steps of the theater in the shadow.

Most of us will be here at least until the 12th, or else until the 15th, the day the agora officially ends. Some will stay a little longer.

Apart from our camp on the mountain we can dispose of a squat in the center of Exarchia, for showers, electricity, internet. People move up and down, but most of us prefer to camp in the public space. Lots of different people in a squat leads to trouble.

On Syntagma things were pretty quiet. Many cameras but no field battles or demonstrations. A thematic assembly on immigration was organised as a part of the agora. It’s a very weighty matter in Greece, it was well organised, but it didn’t catch a lot of attention from the locals.

It’s early evening. My mom is here for a revolutionary visit, together with a friend of hers. We walk through Exarchia, on the way to the hill. I tell them to be careful.

“There are anarchists on the loose here.”

“They don’t bite, do they?”


Tourists waiting to capture the change of the guard at parliament

On the central square of Exarchia, by pure chance, we encounter the comrades who suspected José Miguel of being an infiltrator. They had abbandoned the squat before the march arrived and they hadn’t shown their faces to anyone. They are about to take the plane and leave. Two other comrades from the march to Brussels who had come here to organise the agora had already left.

They look pale and tired. The city has worn them down, both physically and mentally. They go back. It has been a delusion. I hope Spain will give them new strength.

A day earlier I had encountered Timo the flamboyant Finn on Syntagma. He has been here about as long as our other comrades, but he is not thinking about going away. He adores this place.

Athens is grim. You have to be able to cope with that, Timo explains. ‘The dream of the Greek middle classes is over. And with it, the bourgeois way of life. This attracts a whole different type of people.’

Many of them are concentrated in Exarchia. Artists, squatters and punks from over the world in a maelstrom of drugs, repression, resistance, creation and destruction. And no hope.

It’s fascinating to see. The years of the big boom are definitely over. This is a city in full decline. You don’t even have to walk through the streets to notice it. You can see it from above, from the mountain of Exarchia.

At night, the city fails to shine. It’s no happy blanket of lights, like you would expect a metropolis to be. You can see patches of darkness, especially in the neighbourhoods of the center.

For the moment only the Acropolis is still immune against the expanding darkness. She remains a golden rock, suspended in the air while the city around her loses its exuberance, and lights are dimming, every day.

Acampada teatro

Moon over Exarchia

In Athens, Greece on 6 May 2012 at 23:36


Athens, May 6

Dear people,

At dawn we were woken up by police. We had to take down the tents that we had put up a few hours earlier. Once we did that, we could sleep on.

It was a bad start of the day. People are nervous, tired and angry. Some of us still try to get some sleep, others want to discuss and resist.

At eight o’ clock police say we have to go. The first tourists are about to arrive, and they don’t want them to see a band of hippies camping.

So just like the night before, we get escorted for a couple of hundred meters into the desolate inner city hell of Athens.

Retreat from Thisio




We decide to return to Syntagma. We park our shopping carts there, we occupy our angle, and we crash in the grass to get some more sleep.

That’s more or less how the day went by. It was the second day of Agora Athens. Most of the things that were planned never took shape. Only the preparatory assembly for a march to Palestine attracted the attention of some locals, activists and marchers. For now it’s only a crazy idea. If there are people crazy enough to join, it might become a reality.

I’m quite skeptic on the subject, and I don’t really see the point of it, other than the desire to keep marching.

Two routes are being considered. The northern one would leave from Greece and pass through Turkey up to the border with Syria. The southern one would leave from Tunis, cross all of Libya and Egypt up to the Suez Canal and the Gaza strip. In both cases it’s very unlikely that the march will arrive at its destination.

The Turkey route is hard, but practically feasible, and likely to be overwhelmingly beautiful. The North African route is impossible unless the march adapts itself to the circumstances of the land and transforms into a kind of old style caravan with camels, mules and Arabs. It has hundreds of kilometres of deserts and uninhabited lands to cross along the southern shore of the Mediterranean. It must but an incredibly boring walk. But from a revolutionary point of view it’s the most interesting route, because it touches the three countries that were at the root of the Arab Spring, starting from Tunis and passing by Tahrir square before arriving directly on the border of Israel.

Return to Syntagma


While we are relaxing under the trees in Syntagma, the Greeks are voting. We don’t really care about it. ‘If elections would change anything they would be outlawed’. The only worrying thing we heard is that the neo-nazi party can legally take part for the first time, and they are set to take a lot of votes.

And so they did apparently. The nazis have entered parliament, and when evening falls police presence around the square goes up. They are expecting the nazis to come celebrate in Syntagma, and the anarchists to pick a fight with them.

We don’t want to be caught in the middle. We decide on a strategic retreat to Strefi, the mountain of Exarchia. It was the place that the Greeks recommended us for camping. We won’t be visible there, but at least the place is defendable. Police are unlikely to send us away, because they would have to enter the anarchist quarter to do so, and that could lead to street fighting.

Palestine assembly


Veterans of the march in Athens

It’s almost midnight when our caravan arrives in the park on the hill. It’s a great place for camping. We occupy a stone theater between the trees. A few meters further up the hill you look out at the citadel and the gold lit Acropolis. The full moon is high. There is quiet all around.

‘So here we are,’ I think. ‘Why did we come here? And where are we going next?’

Syntagma at Last

In Athens, Greece, March to Athens on 5 May 2012 at 23:58

March to Athens
Day 180-CVI, from Περιστέρι to Αθήνα, 6 km.

May 5 2012. Foto by comrade Juanito.

Athens, May 5

Dear people,

The tents are packed, the shopping carts are loaded, the sun is high. We have no more time, we have to decide where to go.

The answer was obvious all along. There was only one place where the March to Athens could end. At Syntagma square.

The only real issue was the road that would take us there. We narrowed the options down to two. Either we’d pass by the tourist area of Thisio near the ancient Agora, or by the anarchist quarter of Exarchia.

People’s preferences were clear on this. We would pass by Exarchia. And comrade Mami would take us there. She is in charge of the map.

Getting ready to depart from Peristeri

After Madrid, Paris, Brussels and Rome, the march has reached the outskirts of the European Union. This is Athens.

In all the other capitals the march had entered with defying confidence, but this time we are really far from home, in one of the black holes of the crisis. We heard a lot stories about this city, maybe too many, and you can sense that people are a bit nervous.

We paint our faces, like custom. We prepare to make noise with pots and pans and flutes and drums. And when the time has come, we march for the last time, all together.

Along the way we are escorted by one police car. Before we left, they warned us. “Tonight no free camping.”

Passing Omonoia square

We walk and we try to combine our shopping cart parade through the city with a jam session.

In Exarchia we find a burned out Mini and we turn it into a drum and base. It’s like rocking in an urban jungle.

The wildlife of the zone opens windows and eyes to see who has come to disturb its habitat.

It’s the March to Athens. “Hipipipeeeooo!

On the little square we halt. People are surprised and dressed up in various shades of black. We mix with them and we drink beer. There’s sudden tension because of the tv-camera that came to follow us. The camera soon disappears, and it only returns when we exit the quarter half an hour later.

The march in Exarchia

It’s the last metres to the square, along the artery where the big demonstrations pass. Mami is ahead with the map. She has been very diplomatic in the preparation of our arrival. To avoid troubles with comrade Mimo she wanted the members of the junta to be the first to enter the square.

Field Marshall Mimo

At the last turn we are welcomed by the heavy cavalry. A batallion of Greek indignados on motorbikes. Their honking and the humming of their motors is the soundtrack of our entry in Syntagma.

Here we are. We drop bags, we park prolleys and we abandon ourselves to collective and individual embraces. This is the final square.

On Syntagma at last

The bikers

Music, immediately. The beat is good. The square is ours and it feels like home. All ages and styles come by, and many of them keep hanging around. The comrades who organised the agora had put up a little exhibition with fotos from the march, and the locals brought food and drink.

Police didn’t interfere in any way. They simply warned us that we can’t put up our tents.

Assembly in Syntagma

A welcoming assembly is celebrated. We exchange courtesies and emotions in Greek and English. It’s a satisfying scene on an impressive stage, and it goes on and on. Darkness falls and then comrade Mimo decides that the time is right. He reclaims his position of supreme commander, he puts up his tent and he takes the square.

Field Marshall Mimo occupying Syntagma.

The generals of the junta gather around him, they toast to victory. Among other marchers, tensions go up. Fear for police is high. If we have to believe what we have heard, they are worse than animals, they are monsters.

Three officers have taken note of the tent. Soon, from the southwest corner, a dozen police start to move up to block the stairs on the side.

Syntagma is like a giant pool. From the upper side it’s easy to control. Even though they are only few, the presence of the officers causes a shock. For many of us, but not for the natives. The Greeks in the square don’t even notice the police. Young boys keep whizzing past the officers on their skateboards with complete disregard.

Mimo lifts his tent. An emergency assembly is called for to decide if we stay, if we move or if we camp.

Emergency assembly

Many people don’t bother to participate in the assembly. They have scattered in small groups on the various lawns to enjoy the evening. They don’t see what all the trouble is about. After the tent was lifted, the officers had taken off their helmets and stepped back.

The assembly tries to find a difficult consensus between resisting here, heroically, or going elsewhere to try and get rest. Most of the Greeks gave us the advice of going. They wouldn’t stay here with us, but in other places there would be many people to support us.
Field marshall Mimo was soon fed up with it, and he planted his tent, again. This time he wouldn’t lift it. He was going to sleep in his headquarters on Syntagma.

The second time it wasn’t even necessary for the cops to arrive in order to create tension. Nothing was moving, but the cry of “they’re coming” had immediate effect. After that, it was Mami herself, together with the other members of the junta, who forced Mimo out of his tent, and folded it up.

The second occupation of the square, comrade Mami and general Ollie plotting a revolt against the field marshall

The supreme commander cried treason and hurled threats around, but Mami set him straight with one of her devastating explosions of fury. She is the smallest of us all, but she’s dangerous.

So the field marshall was betrayed by his own generals. Deeply embittered, he picked up his tent, he put me in charge of the square, and he left for the squat in Exarchia.

I walk around. I check the angles of Syntagma. Everything is okay. Little groups of people are smoking weed on the green. Others are passing by. A never-ending assembly is going on. I take a piece of cardboard, I put it next to the fountain in the center of the square, and I sleep. Like the first days in Puerta del Sol.

When I wake up, people are already preparing to retreat. Thirty odd police officers in riot gear entered the square from the side. With or without tents, they want us out.

It would be too much effort to arrest us all, so they just say we have to take our trolleys and they force us down, out of Syntagma.

We put up some lamentful vocal resistance, and we let ourselves be guided down to Monasteraki where there’s the saturday night crowd drinking in the square.

Visually, it’s quite a scene. The cops leave us in an urban desert of graffiti and bankrupcy, where people try to be hip in the bars that remain hip, even if decadence is fashion. The illuminated Acropolis is hovering over it, and we are in the middle, passing through traffic with our trolleys at half past one in the morning.

We move down to Thisio. In the park next to the ancient agora we put up our tents. The march is over, and it has already transformed into something else. But for now we are too tired to realise it.

A Sledgehammer Called Reality

In Greece, March to Athens on 20 April 2012 at 17:41
March to Athens
Day 165-XCI, from Δελφοί to Αράχωβα, 12 km.

Internal assembly in Delphi

Arachova, April 20

Dear people,

We could have seen it coming, and many of us did, but only since yesterday it’s official. As far as Athens goes, we don’t have any illusions any more.

Our comrades organising the International Agora have been very silent lately. And even though in general ‘no news is good news’, Greece is different. News or not, it’s bad. And yesterday evening comrades Getafe and Laurentina showed up in Delphi to bring us the bad news in person.

There is no Agora Athens. For two months, ever since they left the march in Salerno they have been trying to organise something, together with local movements. Yesterday they admitted defeat. Reality has dealt them the final blow.

Athens is a city of five million inhabitants. Many of them are depressed or even desperate. It’s a city under shock. If we had arrived last summer, when Syntagma was occupied and there were oceanic demonstrations in front of parliament every night, we would have found it to be a warm bath. Now we are only the distant echo of a movement whose brief season has already ended here last autumn.

From a different perspective

People don’t believe in popular assemblies or demonstrations or peaceful resistance any more. They have no hope, and if they take the streets to demonstrate it’s mainly for the adrenaline kick.

In two weeks time, when our march will arrive, hardly anyone will notice, and those who do will shrug their shoulders. Especially with elections being held the day after, we definitely won’t make any difference.

Our liaison comrades, and others before them, told us that there is no lack of resistance movements in Athens. In fact, there are far too many of them. According to Getafe, twenty-five different anarchist movements have been trying for two years to establish common objectives. By now only five of them are still talking to each other, the others have gone their separate way. And that is just the anarchists. The fragmentation among communists and other groups is much worse.

Pacifism is frowned upon as useless by most movements, even if relatively few of them actively profess urban guerilla. Those who do are invariably manipulated by the mainstream media. On tv the acts of violence are highlighted at the expense of the underlying motives.

All we can do in this giant maelstrom is what we always do. We go, we take a square, and after that, we improvise.

With hindsight, the auspices for the organisation of an ‘international agora’ hadn’t been favourable from the start. In Belgium or in Italy, the word ‘agora’ may recall the ancient public square where people met and exchanged ideas, but in new Greek agora means ‘market’. It might be a bit confusing for some.

Dark clouds over Arachova

All the while the march is in the mountains. Today we had another 500 meters of ascent to do. Looking up from Delphi, we see the town of Aráchova high above, guarding the mountain pass. In the early evening, when dark clouds gather around the peaks, the town sounds and seems a bit like the gate to Mordor.

Even without hope or illusions, we will have to pass.

Me personally, I’m a bit relieved. The march is one thing, Athens is another. We need to concentrate on the road now, show strength and carry on. Cueste lo que cueste.

Yesterday I talked about the situation with comrade José Miguel, the archaeologist. He has been with us every day from Rome, he has put up with all the shit that has happened along the way, and he always kept working for the group, cleaning the square, doing difusion with charm and with a smile.

“How do you manage?” I ask.

“Look,” he says, and he takes a business card out of his pocket. “This is from a mister Georgios Kristopoulos. He has a jeweller’s shop here up the road. Just now I told him about our march. I gave him our flyer, and he cried. All because of this lousy piece of paper which explains our reasons for marching. He cried out of gratitude for what we’re doing. That’s why I’m still here. I’m doing this march for mister Georgios Kristopoulos.”

On the square in Arachova