President Barack Obama is currently in the midst of his final foreign tour as head of state and yesterday, during his visit to Athens, anti-American violence broke out between protestors and riot police, according to The Telegraph.
The Greek government had more than 5,000 police in Athens in preparation for Obama’s visit. A crowd of roughly 3,000 protesters, some armed with clubs and Molotov cocktails, were marching towards the American embassy when they attempted to enter an off-limits area near Greek President Procopis Pavlopoulos’ residence, where he was hosting a dinner with Obama. The riot police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd, and, after the initial skirmish, rioters retreated to the Athens Polytechnic campus. While fights with police continued to happen, no injuries or arrests have been reported.
Obama’s visit came two days before the 43rd anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic uprising, a pro-democracy demonstration in 1973 that turned violent when Greece’s U.S.-backed military government stormed the university with a tank. The United States’ support of that military regime is a major factor in the strong anti-American sentiment in Greece’s left wing.
Panayiotis Lafazanis, a party leader for the Popular Unity party and one of the groups that took part in the riots, said that Obama’s visit was “a provocation, much more as it comes during the commemoration of the heroic Polytechnic revolt, where the U.S.-driven dictatorship squashed the students with tanks.” Lafazanis also blamed the United States for Greece’s economic troubles and the ongoing refugee crisis, saying, “American imperialism has not changed. The U.S. presidents and administrations have played—and still play—a leading part in the bailout-linked plundering of our country … and their interventions are drowning our part of the world in blood and creating refugee waves.”
A peaceful protest of Obama’s visit by 5,000 Communist Party supporters was also taking place at the same time in Athens. This group of protesters did not attempt to enter the off-limits area of the city.