ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Thousands of police were deployed in Athens and the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki to monitor commemorative marches Thursday marking the anniversary of a 1973 student uprising that was brutally crushed by the military dictatorship then ruling Greece.
The anniversary is observed each year with marches from Athens Polytechnic university to the U.S. Embassy in Athens, and the demonstrations have often, but not always, turned violent.
Thursday's marches were led, as every year, by a group of demonstrators carrying a blood-stained Greek flag from the 1973 uprising.
Around 5,000 police office's were deployed in the Greek capital. Maajor streets were blocked to traffic, and three subway stations along the demonstration route shut down.
In 1973, the military regime that had been in power in Greece since 1967 sent police and troops to crush student-led pro-democracy protests centered in the Athens Polytechnic, a university in the center of the capital. Officers opened fire on unarmed demonstrators and bystanders, and an army tank smashed through the gates of the Polytechnic, behind which many students had gathered.
At least 20 people are believed to have been killed, although the exact death toll of the November 1973 events has never been definitively determined.
The uprising was followed by a putsch within the junta which brought even more hard-line officers into power. Democracy was restored in Greece in July 1974, after the dictatorship collapsed in the face of a Turkish invasion of Cyprus, provoked by the junta’s own machinations aiming to unite the island, whose majority population is Greek-speaking, with Greece.
Demonstrators have marched to the U.S. Embassy every year since 1974 in protest of Washington’s support at the time of the dictatorship in Greece.