One of the busiest days of the year for Greek police is November 17, a historical day commemorated with protest marches in Thessaloniki and Athens, ending at the American Embassy and U.S Consulate.
It is a day to remember an uprising by Athens Polytechnic students against the military junta’s dictatorship, which ended in the early morning of November 17 when a tank plowed down the university’s steel gate to silence those barricaded inside.
It is a day to remember those left dead or injured by snipers in its bloody aftermath.
It is a day to remember how the impassioned efforts of a few can spark change for the greater good of a nation.
Indignant junta hardliner Dimitrios Ioannides staged a counter-coup just days after the uprising was quashed, deposed the president in power and reinstated military law. He followed this with another coup that overthrew the president of Cyprus and left the island vulnerable to attack by the Turkish army, which divided and has occupied it since 1974.
The regime would eventually fall, thus restoring democracy and Parliament with Constantine Karamanlis as prime minister.
Alleged role of the United States
Protest marches end at the American Embassy in Athens and U.S. Consulate in Thessaloniki because it is a long-held belief that the United States instigated, embraced, conspired with and/or funded the military junta. Anti-Americanism is fueled as a result.
While Henry Kissinger admitted a geopolitical interest in keeping Andreas Papandreou from taking power and was conflicted over the Cyprus issue, the evidence presented in declassified documents from the Nixon presidency is circumstantial at best. President Bill Clinton apologized during his visit to Greece in 1999, but an apology is not an admission of guilt.
The United States had political and military motive, but it has not been proven there was intent or malice. U.S. politicians spoke with the junta because it was in power and represented Greece during that period, not necessarily because it was a conspiracy. America was trying to avert a coup, not facilitate one, so at most it is guilty of inaction and acquiescing instead of using its resources to intervene.
November 17 is a holiday for all universities and schools.
Athens Polytechnic is now National Metsovion Polytechnic, named after the city in which its benefactors hail, and closes on November 15 to commemorate the day students first occupied the university in 1973. Wreaths are laid on a monument dedicated to students killed during the Greek Resistance in 1941-1945.
“The Polytechnic uprising, as all other significant historic events, was the result of a coincidence of circumstances. One thing led to another, culminating in three spectacular days in November 1973…
An entire population of 9 million, which wants to show that it stood up to those who deprived it of its freedom, is actually indebted to the youthful boldness of just a few…
The anniversary of the Polytechnic uprising has gone the way of all traditions. It has become a senseless litany of ambitions, a celebration that only has relevance to the past and not the present, much less the future. Unfortunately, the Polytechnic died many years ago. We simply carry its corpse around the streets of Athens every November. May it rest in peace.” — Kathimerini
“Were the eagle and the phoenix birds of a feather in the junta?” — Louis Klarevas
“American Duplicity: How America created the junta”
“The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House” — Seymour M. Hersh
“Are the Greeks anti-American?” — Southeast Europe Project
“Easy myths about November 1973” — Kathimerini
“Arxizoyn oi ekdhlwseis gia to Polytexneio” — ANA-MPA
“End of a political tradition” — Kathimerini
In the News
“Greek marchers clash with police” – BBC (2008)
“Greek uprising shaped California educator” — Bloomberg
“What happened on November 17” — KQED
“Thousands march to US embassy to protest killings” — DW
“Greeks march on November 17” — AP
“Anniversary marred by night clashes in Athens“– Euronews