ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greeks took to the streets by the tens of thousands on Saturday to commemorate the 39th anniversary of a deadly student uprising against the country's former dictatorship.
While the marches went on peacefully, clashes between anarchists and police erupted briefly in the capital, Athens and Greece's second-largest city of Thessaloniki, in both cases far from where the marches took place. Police announced they detained 70 people in Athens and 19 in Thessaloniki.
With more than 6,000 police deployed in the city center, protesters marched from the National Technical University of Athens, where the 1973 uprising kicked off, to the U.S. Embassy. They were led by students carrying a Greek flag bloodied during the uprising.
Many Greeks hold the U.S. responsible for backing the 1967-1974 dictatorship. Protesters burned a U.S. flag outside the embassy, a yearly ritual.
A separate march by Communist Party supporters later went past the U.S. Embassy.
The Communists had announced their intention to march on to the Israeli Embassy, past the U.S. Embassy, to protest Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Police initially blocked the route at the request of a prosecutor, but after talks with protesters, unblocked it and the march resumed and ended peacefully.
Police say both marches involved about 22,000 people.
In Thessaloniki, about 12,000 people marched, police said. Some burned a European Union flag, angry over EU demands to cut Greek spending in order to get a desperately needed bailout loan.
The student uprising began on Nov. 14, 1973. After violent clashes with police on the 16th, the army intervened and tanks stormed the National Technical University in the early hours of the 17th. There were hundreds of arrests. The dictatorship itself admitted to 12 "accidental" deaths and over a thousand injured. The actual number of dead is disputed but it is agreed that tens died.
While the student uprising failed to overthrow the dictatorship, a coup by army hardliners deposed the dictator, George Papadopoulos, on Nov. 25, 1973. They, in turn, were forced to transfer control to a civilian government in July 1974 when a botched attempt to unify Cyprus with Greece led to Turkey invading the island of Cyprus and to a near-war between Turkey and Greece.
Elena Becatoros in Athens and Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki contributed to this report.