Tens of thousands demonstrated in Greece on Friday the 50th anniversary of a deadly crackdown on a student revolt against a military junta, viewed as triggering the restoration of democracy.

In Athens, 25,000 people joined the annual march by leftist students and groups to the US embassy to denounce Washington’s support for the 1967-1974 Greek military dictatorship during the Cold War.

Around 5,000 police officers were deployed in the capital and traffic in the city centre was closed off.

Another 10,000 protesters gathered in the second city of Thessaloniki in the north, where scuffles broke out between security forces and some demonstrators who threw Molotov cocktails, police said.

Small rallies were also held in other towns across the country.

Photo: Aggelos Makrigiorgos/Supplied

The Israel-Hamas war dominated the Athens protest with a large Palestinian flag carried at the head of the march. “Freedom to Palestine,” students chanted.

Smoke bombs in the colours of the Palestinian flag were thrown in front of the US embassy, images from Greek television showed.

The protests mark the day in 1973 when at least 24 people were killed at Athens Polytechnic after the junta sent troops and police against a pro-democracy student uprising.


Photo: Aggelos Makrigiorgos/Supplied

The bloodstained Greek flag that flew over the Polytechnic’s iron gate on the night of November 16-17, 1973 is carried at the head of the demonstration each year.

Photo: Aggelos Makrigiorgos/Supplied

The crackdown shocked Europe and is generally considered to have broken the dictatorship’s grip on power. Democracy was restored months later.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the uprising was “a catalyst of our modern history… a beacon lighting the way to a more open and democratic society”.

A study commissioned by the non-profit institute Eteron this week indicated that 15.7 percent of Greeks believe dictatorships are “in some cases” preferable to democracy.

Photo: Aggelos Makrigiorgos/Supplied

In national elections held in June, far-right and nationalist parties won 34 seats in the 300-member parliament.

Lawmakers from the far-right Spartans party on Friday boycotted a special session in parliament for the victims of the junta crackdown.

Source: AFP