ATHENS – Expecting an even more intense reaction this year as the New Democracy government has taken anarchists head on in a battle to control the streets, Greek police are set to put 5,000 officers into operation for the annual Nov. 17 commemoration that brings protests from anarchists while marking the 1973 anniversary of a student uprising that helped bring down a military dictatorship.
Helicopters and drones will also be deployed as part of the tight security operation planned by police in central Athens for what is supposed to be a celebration of the uprising at the Athens Polytechnic but is frequently hijacked by forces using violent means, including throwing Molotov Cocktails, for which penalties were just increased against the use of that weapon.
“The police force has taken all necessary measures and will do whatever is possible to ensure the events for the Polytechnic are carried out smoothly. It is on standby to protect, among others, public buildings and especially universities,” police sources told state-run news agency ANA-MPA.
The tightest security will be in the neighborhood of Exarchia that has long been dominated by anarchists but where Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has sent in squadrons of riot police to take back control, empty abandon buildings of squatters and round up drug dealers.
That spot, which abuts the rich neighborhood of Kolonaki at the edge of the Parliament and Syntagma Square in the heart of the capital, is where the anarchists take on police at the end of the main march for the anniversary.
Greek Police (ELAS) said that they also have plans for dealing with attackers that climb up onto the roofs of buildings in the area to throw objects, projectiles and molotov cocktails at them, with the helicopters and drones able to relay visual images to headquarters.
Government buildings, embassies, universities and especially the Economic University of Athens – where a police raid uncovered helmets, clubs, hoods and other paraphernalia used by rioters at the weekend – will be heavily guarded.
Police said they believe these areas in universities served as a base for the rioters in their attacks on police and, following the recent abolition of university asylum laws, police will be able to go onto college grounds to chase anyone attacking them.
This will also be the inaugural deployment of the newly-formed motorcycle police unit “Drasi”, which has replaced the “Delta” unit while 50 police officers in five groups of 10, mounted on motorbikes, will be constantly patrolling the areas around central Athens and Exarchia, supporting the MAT riot police.
The ELAS leadership told police on patrol to take measures to protect themselves, warning that there is a risk they will come under attack with expectations that anarchists will try to show even stronger defiance this year.