Many people know about the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 when a student (Tank Man) stood in front of an oncoming tank but few people know of when Greek students faced comparable tanks. Greece was under the Greek military junta, alternatively ‘The Regime of the Colonels’ between 1967 and 1974. Under the dictatorial rule of the military, the Greek people suffered the abolition of their civil rights, citizens and politicians were exiled, imprisoned and tortured due to their political views. One of the main reasons for the fall of this Greek military junta was the student protest in the Athens Polytechnic (Polytechneion) in November 17, 1973. Although there were many protests against the dictatorship in Greece though more often outside the country (a student from Corfu set himself on fire in protest of the dictatorship in Genoa, Italy where he was studying, a monument of Kostas Giorgakis stands in one of the Corfiot squares, he was one of the first martyrs), the Polytechnic incident was started by the students who went on strike on the 14th of November and barricaded themselves in the Polytechnic to protest against the dictatorial regime and rally for democracy. They set up a radio station using laboratory equipment to make the radio and broadcasted across Athens asking the people to join in their cause. Broadcasting repeatedly the following message:
“Here is Polytechneion! People of Greece, the Polytechneion is the flag bearer of our struggle and your struggle, our common struggle against the dictatorship and for democracy!”
In the early hours of November 17th the dictators sent tanks to smash down the gate of the Polytechnic in a city that had no lights, the colonels had shut them, the Polytechnic had lights due to a generator. All you could hear is the voice of the students on the radio calling for the soldiers to join them in the uprising and the people of Athens to come and support the strike. Calling them ‘brothers in arms’ and singing the Greek National Anthem made no difference to the soldiers who entered the yard and by which time the radio broadcast finished.
In the aftermath, none of the students in the Polytechnic were killed in the uprising, 35 or more civilians were killed outside the campus, some teenagers , some children. Hundreds of others were injured during the uprising as the students call was answered by the multitude of Athenians wanting the end of tyranny. Today all of Greece remembers them and honors them!