November 3, 2014

το μεγάλο συλλαλητήριο – the big demonstration

Filed under: demonstrations, greece — cohn17 @ 8:55 pm

on saturday, more than 900 groups (allegedly) convened on syntagma square, in front of the parliament building, for an anti-austerity demonstration. demonstrators called for increased employment, a living wage, income support, and free education, among other issues. i went down to take photographs with the expectation that there would be a sense of electricity and maybe danger in the air, tens of thousands of protesters just one provocation away from starting a massive brawl in the city center. my initial impressions didn’t disappoint me: certainly, the students’ union group promised a high degree of theater as they mustered outside the square.

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top, the student fighting front (rough translation) on the march; bottom, the panhellenic musicians’ union prepare to play “of struggle”, and the marchers’ flags were on staves thick enough to beat someone’s head in.

some of the other groups also had an ominous cast to them, such as the infrastructure workers’ union:

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soon, however, i got the sense that despite the size, this protest was not going to be particularly confrontational. yes, it was crowded, and yes, there was political theater (including the folk singers and che guevera posters) that you expect at demonstrations …

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… but the marchers included the press and social media professionals’ union, who just didn’t seem like the rock-throwing types, and also the old age pensioners (who might have been rock-throwing types at one point, but weren’t now). throughout the morning, the crowds grew thicker, but the energy didn’t grow to match: the demonstration leaders on the stage began calling out slogans in between snippets of protest songs, but the response was pretty tepid.

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play the video
for the first hour, the dogs couldn’t even bother to move themselves out of the square.

in the end, the local new york times affiliate only gave it two paragraphs, which suggests to me that for a lot of people, after seven years of crisis, this was nothing new.

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