Exarchia, Athens, December 6, 2013

      

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      We were just beginning dinner when there were explosions in the narrow street and six students ran in the door. The manager told them to sit at a table and pretend they were there to eat. He quickly put plates in front of them. Then several more rushed from the chaos of the street and the manager shooed them into a back room. Some of the students were wearing gas masks.
      Suddenly, we heard explosions just outside the glass doors of our restaurant and smoke began to fog up our view, and began coming under the door. More students ran in and again the manager hustled them into the back room. Right behind the students the gas cloud made its way into our restaurant. Our eyes began tearing, our faces hurt and we were choking from the fumes of the tear gas. We ran to the back room where the students were hiding, figuring we’d escape the worst of the tear gas but it followed us there and blinded us. Our faces were burning and there was snot running out of our noses uncontrollably. We were choking and gasping as one of the students tried to open a window but it was so well constructed for security that he couldn’t get it to budge.
      A number of the students had little packets of cream and they rubbed this on our faces with great care and warned us not to rub our eyes. Then the manager came in with chunks of lemon and told us to squeeze it on our eyelids.
      But the smoke from the tear gas made its way into the tiny crowded room and there was no relief. Finally we realized that the only escape was to force ourselves out of the room, through the restaurant, into the street and away from the scene. The manager held us each by an arm as we opened the door. I glanced to my right and saw a smoking gas canister five feet away. We were hit even harder this time and almost overwhelmed.

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