True to my decision to be part of the all European call to the Squares I was on the tram to Syntagma Square at five o’clock. It was a wise choice since the next tram stopped about 500 meters away from the terminal.
The sweltering heat has not prevented the people from flooding Syntagma Square by any means: on bikes, hooting, on bicycles, by metro and buses, before they stopped their regular services, and hundreds on foot after disembarking at the nearest possible spot.
The people walk and talk: “ I had two jobs, I lost the one three months ago and the other one yesterday. As from today I am living on my savings. What will happen next? I’ll have to sell my house. And then? How do they expect to get paid if we cannot afford living?”,confides a fortyish man, whose friends shake their heads in silent agreement. A middle aged woman adds “I come here everyday. Not for myself only, for my children and my children’s children. I don’t know what will come of it but I am so desperate that I keep coming just to be present and be counted.” The stickers on their shirts are all the same: “We do not owe, we do not sell, we do not pay”, a slogan by the trade unions which has caught the people’s fancy.
A new dimension on the Square is the presence of TV crews, cameras and all. The enraged of Athens are particularly furious with the national and private channels which have largely ignored their mobilization and the TV vans have no sign of the station they represent.
Today the Square is covered by a variety of flags: the whole of Europe is amply represented but there are also a lot of North African countries flags with a banner stating “Tahir Square greets Syntagma Square”. Further on Turkish flags, an Argentinian flag (there was also a solidarity message from Buenos Ayres) and a solitary South African flag amid the sea of Greek flags. But there are also more personalized “flags” : a red helicopter and the very eloquent “oust” !
“Tonight it is time for the citizens to talk” states another banner but slowly the heat becomes unbearable. An iced coffee and many glasses of water later the coffee shop has turned one big crowd with everyone adding comments, exchanging news they receive over the cell phones and taking part in what is happening on the Square: a hand made gallows is carried to the center and we all clap, then the whistles start blowing and we extend open palms towards the Parliament Building. The gesture, unknown to the rest of Europe, means “get lost you low life”, translated loosely.
The police force has limited its activities to cutting off any approach to the Parliament Building. Citizens walking towards Syntagma Square found themselves diverted to another direction which would add at least 10 minutes walk to their already long hike. There was no violence only due to the citizens’ restraint and extreme maturity. In fact, because there is fear of provocation, the protesters have a “group of keeping cool”!!!
The number of people is amazing, the spirit and the dynamism exhibited by the participants are amazing and unprecedented. Believe me, I have been to a lot of demonstrations. One could only compare with the rallies after the fall of the military dictatorship. The estimation is over 200.000 people.