Greece had been, since April 21, 1967, under the dictatorial rule of the military, a regime which abolished civil rights, dissolved political parties and exiled, imprisoned and tortured politicians and citizens based on their political beliefs. On November 14, 1973 students at the Athens Polytechnic (Polytechneion) went on strike and started protesting against the military regime (Regime of the Colonels). As the authorities stood by, the students, calling themselves the "Free Besieged", barricaded themselves in and constructed a radio station (using laboratory equipment) that repeatedly broadcast across Athens:
"Here is Polytechneion! People of Greece, the Polytechneion is the flag
bearer of our struggle and your struggle, our common struggle against
the dictatorship and for democracy!"
In the early hours of November 17, 1973, the transitional government panicked, sending a tank crashing through the gates of the Athens Polytechnic. Soon after that, Spyros Markezinis himself had the humiliating task to request Papadopoulos to re-impose martial law.
Prior to the crackdown, the city lights had been shut down, and the
area was only lit by the campus lights, powered by the university
generators. An AMX 30
Tank crashed the rail gate of the Athens Polytechnic at around 03:00am.
In unclear footage clandestinely filmed by a Dutch journalist, the tank
is shown bringing down the main steel entrance to the campus to which
people were clinging. Documentary evidence also survives, in recordings
of the "Athens Polytechnic" radio transmissions from the occupied
premises. In these a young man's voice is heard desperately asking the
soldiers (whom he calls 'brothers in arms') surrounding the building
complex to disobey the military orders and not to fight 'brothers
protesting'. The voice carries on to an emotional outbreak, reciting the
lyrics of the Greek National Anthem, until the tank enters the yard, at which time transmission ceases.
Total recorded casualties amount to 24 civilians killed...
17 is currently observed as a holiday in Greece for all educational
establishments; commemorative services are held and students attend
school only for these, while some schools and all universities stay
closed during the day. The central location for the commemoration is the
campus of the Polytechneio. The campus is closed on the 15th (the day the students first occupied the campus on 1973).