Raging Greeks Stage Biggest Anti-Austerity Protest Yet
Police: Over 50,000 Greek protesters assemble in the capital
ATHENS — Thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Athens late Sunday on the 12th consecutive day of protests against the government's draconian austerity measures.
Over 50,000 people, according to police estimates, thronged the capital's central Syntagma square for a peaceful demonstration responding to calls for gatherings across Europe. Some 3,000 people also gathered in Greece's second largest city, Thessaloniki, according to the police.
"Thieves, thieves," the crowd chanted waiving Greek flags, but also flags from Spain, Portugal, Tunisia and Argentina.
"You got the disease we got the solution. Revolution," one banner proclaimed.
Sunday's gathering appeared to be the largest since protests began over a week ago.
The non-political, non-ideological demonstrations are modeled by a similar mobilization in Spain led by a group calling themselves 'the indignants'.
"There is hope if demonstrations like this make a difference. If political parties get involved, then no," 26-year-old Maro told AFP.
"I'm indignant because I know I will never find a job in my profession," Maro, who studied to be a fashion designer, said.
Greeks feel indignant and voiced their discontent to the government, which just agreed to a new wave of spending cuts and tax hikes amid a deep recession and job layoffs in order to safeguard a new package of financial help from its creditors, the European union and International Monetary Fund.
"It's a shame what is being done to Greece," retired policeman Stelios Sfinas told AFP.
"I want 'troika' out," the 87-year-old added, referring to the country's three main creditors: the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
48-year-old Panos came with his wife and two young daughters to the demonstration.
"I'm not indignant, I'm disheartened," said Panos who said he saw his salary at a research company he works lowered 70 percent the past year.
"Our relatives support us by lending us money to live," added his unemployed wife.
Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos described the Syntagma square demonstration as both a Greek and global phenomenon.
"This shows that a system that worked for many years has reached its limits and at this moment all of the people in all these countries demand the system changes," he told state television NET early on Sunday.
The minister added that the government's priority was to change matters for the state to operate better.
However, most Greeks no longer have confidence in the country's political system, according to an opinion poll published in the daily To Vima last week.
Three-quarters of those surveyed said they disapproved of Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou's handling of the crisis and also the reaction of his right-wing rival, Antonis Samaras.
In an effort to improve its image the government released a video on its website on Saturday outlining the achievements it has made while in power the past 20 months.
The mass demonstration comes a day after Greece's two main private and public sector unions protested in central Athens to condemn the government's new bailout deal from international lenders.
Drowning in debt, Greece won Friday the pledge of a new bailout on top of a July cashflow fix from European Union and International Monetary Fund, but only after surrendering some of its financial autonomy.
International backers want greater control over a radical economic overhaul, ranging from decisions over the privatisation of Greek state assets to fixing the country's chaotic tax collection system.