Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Unlikely Alliance between Greek Activists and the Flotilla

Joseph Dana

ATHENS – On a sleepy Friday afternoon in the Greek port city of Perama, just outside of the beleaguered Greek capital, a refurbished US flagged ferry boat, dubbed The Audacity of Hope, set sail for the Gaza Strip. With the attention of the international media and journalists on board from CNN and The New York Times, the boat’s captain, a sixty year old American known simply as Captain Jack, directly challenged the Greek Coast Guard to stop his ship.  By nightfall, the boat and its passengers were detained after the Greek government announced, under clear Israeli diplomatic pressure, that no boats with the intention of sailing to Gaza would be allowed to leave Greek ports.

Athens provided a dramatic backdrop to the preparations of the flotilla over the past two weeks. Due to protests against overwhelmingly unpopular austerity measures, the Greek capital was literally upside down. Trash littered the streets,  and urban infrastructure including telephone booths, subway stations and constructions sites lay in various stages of disrepair as Greek protesters channeled their aggression on the landscape of the city. In the midst of this urban chaos, flotilla organizers shuttled passengers between press conferences, media training and visits to the front lines of the demonstrations against the Greek government in the run-up to departure to Gaza.

In the trendy Athenian neighbourhood of Exarchia, flotilla organizers set up their base of operations. The neighborhood, known for its eclectic mix of chic bars and anarchist cafes, has served as an unofficial autonomous zone for exhausted demonstrators needing a break from the front lines of clashes between demonstrations and Greek riot police. At any given moment in the last two weeks, one could find anarchists gearing up to destroy a Greek bank across from flotilla organizers holding an international press conference. From this haphazard intersection of revolutionary activism developed a deep connection between Greek activists and the members of the flotilla as their goals slowly aligned.

“We are in full solidarity with the Greek people as they resist austerity measures which are going to ruin their country,” Lisa Fithigan, one of the passengers on the Audacity of Hope, remarked as a group of flotilla activists walked a short five blocks to Syntagama Square, the focal point of demonstrations in central Athens. “Our mission to Gaza has the full support of the Greek people. We are both against the foreign takeover of Greece and have become united on the ground in Athens.”

By chance, Greece was chosen as the staging ground for the flotilla at a time when the Greek people were in the streets fighting to save their country from foreign takeover. After a week of anti-austerity demonstrations and flotilla training, activists from both camps have emerged unified in their claim that Greek government no longer represents its people; rather it is now beholden to the interests of foreign bodies, be it Israel or the International Monetary Fund.

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