It happens every year with different variations at ceremonies honouring the 17 November, 1973, Athens Polytechnic student uprising against the Greek junta.

The first invective accompanies the laying of wreaths by politicians at the site. That is followed by minor incidents in the ensuing hours as a warm-up for the major wave of violence that breaks out after the commemorative march reaches the US Embassy in Athens (due to Washington’s backing of the junta), which is headed by the same people who sign bailout memorandums and negotiate with creditors and the Americans.

On the day of the anniversary, central Athens shops and metro stations shut down, and the historic Polytechnic building is occupied by troublemakers early on to gather ammunition (Molotov cocktails, cudgels, etc) and to review battle plans.

The clashes with police last for hours. The damage is extensive. The city centre is drowned in tear gas. Lives are endangered and the police apprehend some of those involved to keep up appearances. When the hooded attackers are satiated, they sleep to rest up for the next rendez-vous on 6 December, with more violent outbursts to mark the anniversary of the 2008 killing of 17-year-old student Alexis Grigoropoulos by a policeman.

These actions due not honour those killed during the Polytechnic uprising. Instead, they besmirch and desecrate an anniversary that should be an occasion for a democratic rallying cry, and not division. Cynicism is fueled and young people turn away from politics.

Many government cadres who this year came under attack have themselves justified and legitimised the same type of violence against their political opponents in the past. Now they realise that there is no good and bad violence, and no right-wing and left-wing violence. Violence simply breeds more violence, and it has no place in a democracy.

This is all the more true when that violence is exerted in the name of some of our fellow human beings who had the courage to stand up to the junta.

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