On Sunday over 100,000 citizens gathered around Greece to express their indignation and frustration with the government’s treatment of the debt crisis.
The immediate spark for the protests was media reports of the Greek government’s plans to register Greece Ltd as a business as a way of selling off public land and amenities. Protesters have set up camp all over the country, staying in tents. They have put up banners on buildings and ancient monuments stating "Not for Sale" and are wearing similar slogans themselves.
Entering its fifth day, the peaceful protests are in stark contrast to previous protests in Greece which have often been marred by violence. The first wave of protests about cuts to government spending earlier this year mostly attracted students. This latest movement, however, has attracted people of all ages and from all walks of life. They are gathering in a show of resistance and unity in the face of the worsening debt crisis.
Indeed, it looks a lot like protesters are reverting back to the original forms of democracy: people are gathering at a central point. Everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinion in a public forum. All suggestions presented are being transcribed and will be part of a memorandum that will be sent to the government at the end of the protest.
These protesters have been inspired by similar demonstrations in Spain, the May 15, or "indignation", movement. They’re calling on the Greek government to cease strong austerity measures and to listen to the real needs of the people.
The Greek government has taken to drastic measures to cut the nation’s debt. Public sector salaries have been decreased to 400 Euros a month and there have been swingeing staff cuts to health services. Right now only the most urgent surgical operations are being conducted. 100 public hospitals are in the process of being "merged" into 60 hospitals.
There are concerns in the education sector too. Aristotele University, the largest in the Balkans area with over 80,000 students is at risk of closure. In protest, its faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication will today close down its building and classes so students, faculty and staff can to attend a meeting in the Aula (the main auditorium) as a sign of their dissatisfaction with the government. They will be joined by the Bishop of Thessaloniki, the Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia, Panagiotis Psomiadis, Thessaloniki Mayor John Boutaris as well as the President of the Municipal Council of Thessaloniki Panagiotis Avramopoulos.
Dimitris, one of the protesters in Thessaloniki, has been camping for five days outside the White Tower on the city’s waterfront. He told New Matilda why he was protesting.
"We are gathered here just because we are not left with any other choice. We are indignant about everything that has been decided without asking the citizens. After having been ignored for a long time we came out here to show that we have our own will and strength and in a peaceful way will suggest and make changes."
The reaction from the government to the protests has not been positive. Greece’s deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos has already dismissed the significance of the ‘indignant’ movement.
"It is a movement without an ideology or organisation, which bases itself on only one feeling, that of rage," Pangalos told the Greek media.
The government ministers met last weekend to vote on the passing of a new memorandum, intended to lead to a second loan which will lead to further financial cuts for citizens. The ministers are yet to agree and nothing has been passed yet.
In the past, the Greek government has failed to take the wishes of citizens into consideration so it remains to be seen how effective this new wave of protest will be.
Protester Dimitris is passionate about the cause but he is not holding his breath. "I am trying to be positive but after having seen how the citizens are being treated by the government, I am not to optimistic" he says.
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