Arrived in Athens yesterday. I’m here with others for the B-Fest "Freedom Strikes Back" conference hosted by the Athens Anti-Authoritarian Movement. One of the organizers picked us up from the airport and drove us to our hotel in Exarhia. We are staying at the Museum Hotel right across the street from the Athens Polytechnic. Exarhia and the Polytechnic were central locations for last December’s social uprising here and also in 1973 when students rose up and were brutally suppressed by the military.
We were met at the hotel by Nikos Raptis, a long-time friend of Z and regular writer as well. We went around the corner for some beer, food and discussion.
I spent most of the day walking around, absorbing my surrounds, and dealing with technical matters like the 3 times I blew the power in our hotel room due to poor power adaptors from the U.S. While walking around I also chatted with movement people leafleting on the streets. I was told that the occupations movement has grown, with about 40 occupied spaces in Athens alone and serving diverse purposes such as becoming centers for meeting and organizing.
Later in the evening we went to visit Nosotros, a key anti-authoritarian movement building center and very nice social space in Exarhia square.
Our hosts took us for dinner in a wonderful restaurant just around the corner. We sat on a very nice open-air patio and ate souvlaki, salad, halva, and drank locally made wine.
We were introduced to some of the other organizers of the B-Fest and learned more about the anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement in Athens. They are very well organized, with weekly assemblies, with weekly agendas, a diverse constituency, and have organized this conference which they expect thousands of people from all over Greece, and some internationally, to attend.
The combined friendliness, hospitality, and many shared political perspectives among those I met made me feel very welcome.
This is the first week of three for me here in Greece. My first week is dedicated to the conference. The second week is more filming, meeting with movement people, interviewing and seeing more movement spaces. The third week will be a sort of vacation for me and as of yet, so far, completely unplanned. However, I am warm to the idea of seeing some islands.
The conference will begin today and last till Sunday with many local and international speakers. Vandana Shiva, Michael Albert, Andrej Grubacic and Howard Zinn will all be presenting as well as people from Italy and, of course, folks from here in Greece. I will be giving my talk on "Participatory Society: Urban Space & Freedom" on Friday. There will also be many workshops and aside from doing our own documentation of the event many interviews are scheduled with local media. Additionally, a number of bands and self-organized film showings will also take place. Posters for the event are everywhere I go.
Today Andrej will deliver his talk on direct action, so must eat something now, and prepare the video cameras!
Above: Lydia Sargent of ZMag