Since 21 April 1967, Greece had been under the dictatorial rule of the military. During those years the civil rights were abolished and many politicians and citizens were tortured, imprisoned or exiled for their political beliefs.
The junta tried to intervene in the universities with a law which was sending in military service those students who had different political beliefs and were against them. These actions created strong anti-dictatorship sentiments among students Costas Georgakis, who set himself on fire in public in 1970 in Genoa, Italy, in protest against the junta.
The first massive public action against the junta came from students on 21 February 1973, when law students went on strike and barricaded (CLOSED) themselves inside the buildings of the Law School of the University of Athens, demanding repeal of the law that was forcibly imposing people to join the army. The police were ordered to intervene and many students were reportedly subjected to police brutality. The events at the Law School was the first rebellion that signed the beginning of the fall of the dictatorship.
On 14 November 1973, students at the Athens Polytechnic (Polytechneion) went on strike and started protesting against the military. As the authorities stood by, the students were calling themselves the “Free Besieged“. Their main demand-slogan was:
The students also managed to make their own free and independent radio letting every Athenian citizen know about the facts that were happening in the university, gaining more and more support from the population.
Slogans and graffiti by the students were anti-NATO and anti-American comparing the Greek junta with the Nazi Germany.
In the early hours of November 17, 1973, the government sent a tank crashing through the gates of the Athens Polytechnic. 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 03:00 am. 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. 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’.
An official investigation undertaken after the fall of the Junta declared that no students of the Athens Polytechnic were killed during the incident. Total recorded casualties amount to 24 civilians killed outside Athens Polytechnic campus. These include 19-year-old Michael Mirogiannis, reportedly shot to death by officer Nikolaos Dertilis, high-school students Diomedes Komnenos and Alexandros Spartidis of Lycee Leonin, and a five-year-old boy caught in the crossfire in the suburb of Zografou. The records of the trials held following the collapse of the Junta document the circumstances of the deaths of many civilians during the uprising, and although the number of dead has not been contested by historical research, it remains a subject of political controversy.