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November 19, 2018

Hundreds of Greeks mark anniversary of anti-junta uprising

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November 19, 2018

ATHENS: At least 12,000 Greeks took to the streets of Athens on Saturday to mark the 45th anniversary of a 1973 student revolt against a US-backed junta, police said.

The march was held amid tight security with more than 5,000 officers deployed and drones and a police helicopter hovering over the central Syntagma Square, which has often become a battleground in previous demonstrations.

Some marchers held banners with slogans denouncing fascism, imperialism, Nato and US foreign wars as well as austerity. There were also some 7,500 demonstrators in Greece’s second largest city Thessaloniki.

After the march to the US embassy, minor scuffles broke out when a small group of anarchists threw firebombs at the central police headquarters as they headed to the Exarchia neighbourhood.

Police fired stun grenades to disperse them, while dozens of hooded youths put up barricades in Exarchia and threw firebombs from inside the nearby Polytechnic building. At least 24 people were killed in the 1973 military crackdown on the student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic.

The event is generally considered to have broken the junta’s grip on power and helped the restoration of democracy. In recent years demonstrators have used the anniversary to voice opposition to the harsh austerity measures imposed on Greece by its international creditors after the global financial crisis.

"(This anniversary) means a continuous battle for our freedom, for our democracy and shows how timeless the slogans we chant are, "Maria Marougadaki, a doctor protesting in Athens said.

On Friday, youths gathered outside the Athens Polytechnic booed a group of government officials over current austerity measures and prevented them from paying their respects at the memorial to victims of the uprising. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras the country’s first radical leftist leader, who was born the year the junta fell, hailed the commemoration.

He called for "new fights" against fascism, the far right and "neo-liberal absolutism". The anti-junta demonstration is a treasured anniversary for many Greeks. The bloodstained Greek flag that flew over the Polytechnic that night is traditionally carried at the head of the demonstration in the capital.

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