This protest unfolded much like every other big anti-austerity protest we have had here in Athens – that is, soon after the protest reached Syntagma square, I saw a group of a couple hundred anarchists start clashing with the police. It’s easy to recognise the anarchists, because they chant slogans like ‘death to fascists’, wear hoodies, and operate in groups. And as usual, this gave the police the excuse they needed to start dispersing the crowd with plumes of tear gas. People quickly evacuated the square.
While it wasn’t the biggest anti-austerity protest we’ve seen, it’s the first major one since the elections, which means that many of the demonstrators had voted for the current government. They feel betrayed – the government promised to ease their pain and hasn’t delivered. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had pledged
in May that there would be no further cuts in salaries, before going back on his word. And then of course, there are the rest of the protesters, who still feel just as angry and hopeless as before – even more so, since salaries keep dropping and unemployment keeps rising. I used to be a marketing executive earning 2,500 euros a month, before I lost my job to the crisis and went freelance. Almost nobody gets paid that kind of money anymore. Kids in their early twenties are accepting 800 euros a month to take on jobs like those – the few that are left.
Personally, I have little hope that politicians will listen to us, but I believe it’s still better to express yourself in the street than to sit on the couch. I was disappointed, though, to see that once again, the protest was led by unions. That’s a problem – it shows that people aren’t ready to go out on their streets on their own, like they’re doing in Spain
. I believe that would have more impact.
Every time there is another round of austerity measures, people here in Greece say, ‘enough, it’s too much to bear’ – but if things continue like this, one of these days it really will be impossible to go on.