MeRA25: “On 17 November, We March for Democracy and Freedom”

Fotini Bakadima MP on the fight against Greece’s slide into authoritarian rule.

Each year in central Athens, we march to commemorate the 1973 student uprising against Greece’s military dictatorship.The march is a remembrance not only of the bloody suppression of the students’ heroic uprising, but of the entire Greek nation’s resistance against fascism — a struggle that led, at its end, to break the military junta’s 7-year tyranny. Annually, over 20,000 take part in the march from the National Technical University of Athens to the U.S. Embassy, signaling their resistance to domestic dictators and imperialist forces alike.

This year, the Greek government is determined not to allow any of the traditional celebrations to take place, especially the commemoration rally to the US embassy, blaming their opposition on concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic.

Against this ludicrous proposition, MeRA25 announced that its 9 MPs will march wearing masks and maintaining social distance, in order to pay tribute to the 1973 student uprising. The government responded with threats: the Minister of Civil Protection warned that MeRA25 MPs would be arrested should they choose to march; the Police declared that no public gatherings of four people or more were to be allowed from 06:00 a.m. 15 November until 09:00 pm 18 November 18.

In other words, they imposed a four-day ban throughout Greece in a blatant attempt to kill off our public spirit of resistance.

This unprecedented decision not only suspends Article 11 of the Greek Constitution and the right of citizens to assembly, but also violates the Constitution as a whole, since only the Parliament can suspend Constitutional provisions. That is why the Greek Association of Judges and Prosecutors issued a statement on Sunday 15 November 15 afternoon, rendering the “police chief decision as “unconstitutional” and stating that it should be “immediately revoked.”

I should stress that a total ban on all public gathering by universal suspension of Article 11 of the Constitution has been implemented only twice in the past. First, on 21 April 1967, when the colonels took power with a coup-d’etat, initiating the military dictatorship. And second, on 17 November 1973 itself, when the colonels entered the Polytechnic school with a tank. It is the first time after the restoration of Democracy that this right has been banned.

In this context, MeRA25 — along with the KKE and Syriza — issued the following joint statement condemning this decision:

“This is a deeply undemocratic and also unconstitutional decision, as the Greek Association of Judges and Prosecutors points out, as it violates the core of the constitutional right of assembly (Article 11), imposing a total unauthorized suspension of assembly and not a precise regional restriction… The government has a huge responsibility for this development. Even now the Government has to withdraw this unacceptable decision.”

On Monday, a resolution of protest against the ban on rallies was handed over to the President of the Hellenic Republic, the President of Parliament and State Minister by representatives of the 3 parties, while MeRA25 lawyers also filed applications for cancellation and suspension against the decision with the Council of State, Greece’s Supreme Administrative Court, for violation of the principle of proportionality (based on a European Parliament resolution and the relevant decision of the German Constitutional Court) and for lack of specific and informed reasoning in curtailing the right of assembly.

Many have warned that the pandemic could become pretext for a creeping authoritarianism.

It is happening right here in Greece — and we will not permit it. No one can change the Constitution by invoking this ludicrous citation.

MeRA25’s elected MPs will attempt a symbolic march, taking all necessary precautions. Democracy must be protected, and 17 November along with it. We will march as representatives of Democracy and Freedom.

Fotini Bakadima, MP of MeRA25 (2nd Pireaus District).

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