The Greek Frustration and the Riots

Riots in Greece

The last three years riots in Greece have been of central interest to international media. Nonetheless, even before that, the Greek society was not unfamiliar with protests that, at times, turned violent. The volume of these rallies has increased since December 2008. This article will try to explain the possible reasons of this rise through a look back at the Greek history that can help understanding the socio-political situation in Greece. 

During the Junta of the Colonels (1967-1974) a broad part of the Greek youth belonged to different organizations, fighting for the return of democracy. At the end of the dictatorship, the majority of these young people were accusing the government of the United States for being responsible for the coup d’état. This has not historically been proven, though it is a very probable scenario, considering the strategic spot where Greece lies. It’s geographical proximity to the Soviet block and to the Middle East, which saw two major conflicts at the time of the Greek dictatorship, made it valuable for American military interests. The Paris May movement in 1968, towards a more social and just State, also influenced their ideology. When the Junta fell, most of these young people passed onto the political scene of the country, organizing themselves in different political parties. Mostly in the PASOK and the Greek Communist Party, legal for the first time in Greek history. 

Unmet expectations

In 1981, after seven years of the conservative party in government, PASOK won the election with a broad majority. PASOK stands for Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement and, as its name inspires, expectations for a change were high. However, few things have changed if one compares to the previous administration. Regarding foreign policy, Greece has kept the same line of alliance with the Western World and its interests. The same people which a few years back were accusing the United States of organizing the coup d’état, chose to keep the country in the NATO and join the European Union. The rapid urbanization of Greek cities without a plan, led to ecological disaster and monstrous esthetical results. It started during the dictatorship but has never been stopped or regulated by PASOK. The economical reforms haven’t been radical, as was expected, and certainly the reforms didn’t produce positive results. What PASOK has changed during its administration, was the political elite and the bureaucratic part that follows it. In concordance with two elements that characterize Greek society -patronage and nepotism- PASOK has placed its party members in key public positions. 

The expectations created by many voters in 1981, quickly vanished. The modern Greek anarchist movement was born in that decade. Young people were frustrated by the PASOK administration. And they felt not represented by the Communist Party that couldn’t adapt to international changes, maintaining the same old discourse through the years. When in 1985 a fifteen-year-old student was shot and killed by the police during a rally, the youth answered with violent riots and occupations of universities. During the nineties and until 2008 the same movement, always composed by young people, continued reacting on different occasions, mostly regarding educational or other political reforms. It is important to underline that although the rallies during these years were massive, the riots were mainly provoked by small groups of people. 

This minor participation until 2008 can be explained by the influence the main political forces have on young people, through the university parties. The latter are financed by the national political parties and operate in all universities of the country. Their main activity is organizing gatherings and this is often an easy way for new students to socialize. Occasionally they offer them support with their university tasks, while the most popular of their leaders later advance to the national parties. The results of most university elections are identical to the national ones, favouring the two major parties that have governed since 1974. It is certain that their ideological and political influence on the students is significant. Therefore, even among young people, those who were protesting against the political situation in Greece were few. 

The movement turns massive

However on December 6th 2008, hours after the cold-blooded assassination of the fifteen-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a police officer, massive rallies were organized in major Greek cities. Quickly they turned violent. Violence was often caused by police provocation and brutality. This time it wasn’t just a small cell among the protesters which reacted. Almost all the participants were acting violently towards banks, the Parliament, the Police Central Station etc. Main cities were paralyzed for more than two weeks. It was a spontaneous reaction of the majority of young people to the killing of a high-school student. 

Since 2010, when Greece accepted the prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund to deal with its financial problems, more rallies have been formed. This time not spontaneously but organized by syndicates, often guided by political parties. The streets of Athens have turned once again into a theatre for violent riots. Some days after the “indignados” movement appeared in Spain, people in Greece started gathering in the squares of big cities. In the central square of Athens more than 100.000 people protested peacefully on the 5th of June. They were people of different ages, education or political beliefs. They don’t trust the parties or the political system in Greece anymore. They are just indignados, as the name states. 

Why rioting?

This frustration and anger among Greeks during the past three years has been interpreted in many different ways. When people who participated in the riots have been asked why they acted, they simply answered: “because me or my best friend could have been there, drinking beer, instead of Alexandros”. Opinions in international media were mostly attributing the riots to the bad financial situation that affected young people more than others. Often they “feared” that the Greek December could be contagious and spread to other European cities. What few people have argued, is that the main reason for the frustration is a lack of representation in the existing system. Some people in Greece do not feel identified with any political party and many times not with the system itself. They are used to seeing two major parties with the exact same discourse, whose presidents belong to three families and take turns at ruling the prime minister’s office, as if it was an alternation of three royal families. The police, the state’s instrument for keeping the order, often destroys it instead with its stupidity and brutality. Corruption is a common practice both by politicians and other citizens, such as doctors and lawyers. Few people believe in this state. And if they do, it is most probably because it pays them. 

All the previous reasons could have played a crucial role in the rise of the riots in Greece. Of course young people felt threatened by the ignorance of the police and protested against it. Lack of opportunities and economical unrest might have provoked the anger too. But both these problems are part of a major one. The Greek State does not reflect the expectations of a big part of the youth. The decreased electoral participation of these last years, especially among young people, proves it. 


Demonstrations and assemblies
26th of May till 16th of June
Videos and photos in chronological order 


Iraklio - Krete



1 video from the daily life in the square of Athens, Syntagma
4 videos from the last days when citizens are making the life of the government and the IMF difficult. 

Photos from Thessaloniki

Demands (in greek)

More videos and photos (the 15th of June)

This is some photos and videos from when the police tried to evacuate the square of Syntagma.
The assemblies still exists though.

From Crete: