The 17 November marks the 47th anniversary since the students’ uprising at the Athens Polytechnic. Every year a march is held from the Polytechnic to the American Embassy to commemorate the revolt which was marked the beginning of the end for the dictatorship which began on 21 April 1967. This year, tensions are running high following the government’s imposition of a four-day coronavirus-related ban on gatherings from 15-18 November.

Main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance party leader Alexis Tsipras called on the government to revoke the order on Monday. The main opposition party leader called the order unconstitutional, and rejected Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ call for a wreath-laying memorial ceremony to be held by party leaders and the Greek President at the Athens Polytethnic on 17 November.

Mr Tsipras clarified that SYRIZA would not be visiting the Athens Polytechnic site on Tuesday, but a five-member party delegation would instead pay a symbolic visit to the buildings of Eleftherias Park where the Military Police interrogated people during the dictatorship in Greece.

The Greek Communist Party had issued an announcement that the ban was yet another sign of the government’s “authoritarianism” with the party secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas saying four days ago that it was never a “governmental feast” but a march born out of student struggles and labour unions.

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Wreath laying. Photo: Eurokinissi

A nationwide coronavirus lockdown and overnight curfew is currently in effect across the country until 30 November, where figures rose there were 2,159 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours and 59 deaths.

There are fears that commemorations will take place despite the ban as the uprising is regarded as a key moment in the country’s modern history, leading to the downfall of the military regime after tanks drove into the polytechnic where students had barricaded themselves. There were 24 deaths that day, turning the tide of popular opinion against the military colonels. The march each year is one against authoritarianism with tens of thousands gathering to protest against social injustice.

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Each year, the peaceful march is also characteristically followed by violence and damage to public and private property as hoodlums take over at Exarhia, a neighborhood with a strong anarchist grip.