JUNE 24, 2017
ATHENS, Greece — One man waved a Greek flag. Others chanted and held aloft banners. Photographers rushed across Syntagma Square to capture the sun-washed scene in front of the Parliament building — so many that the photographers often outnumbered the activists.
A week earlier, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had signed a financial recovery agreement with the International Monetary Fund. For Greeks already struggling to avoid poverty, the deal meant more austerity measures—exactly what the so-called Resign movement argued Tsipras had promised to fight.
The movement’s demonstration on Tuesday – aimed at convincing the leftist government to step down – was calm but lively. By nightfall, bodies filled the square and their chants gained momentum. People leaned quietly on poles and perched atop walls, smoking and chatting as if at a neighborhood party. Still, some described themselves as angry.
When asked, participants acknowledged that Tsipras and his colleagues were unlikely to heed their demands.
“We don’t expect them to quit, but we have to show them that we are against their politics,” said Stella Brokalaki, 39. “It’s not only what they do for the economy. It’s the whole system. They don’t like Europe, they are not for Europe, they are not for human rights.
“They are leftists. They are not socialists. And they are totally incapable,” Brokalaki said in her sometimes bumpy English. “They were just a group of people who [the] only thing they knew was to demonstrate against the changes and the reformation, and now they are government because they took advantage of people’s anger.”
Brokalaki, who has lived in Athens for 10 years, said she did not plan to attend. But then, she explained, “after I heard what they said, I said, no, I will go! They don’t want people to demonstrate—but they were always demonstrating when they were opposition.”
Even when Syntagma Square was most crowded, activist Elena Lemos described the turnout and lack of energy as disappointing. On other evenings, she said she had seen the square filled with so many bodies shoulder-to-shoulder that she could hardly move.
Lemos, 58, said her son left Greece to work in Kazakstan as an electrical engineer, one of many young people who have left Greece to find work. If the government continues unchanged, Lemos said, “I don’t think there is much to stay for.”
“People are so disappointed. They don’t know where to turn,” Lemos explained. Her calm tone and gaze starkly contrasted with her dire predictions. “There’s no hope for the future, because nothing seems to change.”
The phrase “light at the end of the tunnel” has been used in reference to the financial crises for years, most prominently by Euclid Tsakalotos, the Greek minister of finance. But Lemos refused to buy it.
“There is no light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “ They’ve demolished the tunnel.”