With strained negotiations between Greece and its European lenders at a seeming impasse—and the prospect of a Greek exit from the euro zone, or "Grexit," looming large—thousands rallied in central Athens on Wednesday night, in a show of support for the leftist Syriza party and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has so far resisted the creditors' push for deeper cuts and further austerity.
Close to 3,000 demonstrators gathered outside the Greek parliament building in Syntagma Square, holding signs and banners with slogans like, "Our lives don't belong to the lenders" and "Stop Austerity, Support Greece, Change Europe."
They called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank, and the European Commission—who have demanded more budget cuts in return for desperately needed frozen aid—to respect the mandate that voters gave to the Syriza party, which won the January parliamentary elections on an anti-austerity platform.
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"In a carnival atmosphere, Greeks young and old gathered through social media, holding banners calling for an end to the austerity policies the country has suffered under for five years," The Telegraph reported. "Polls continue to show overwhelming support for the euro across Greece, but the terms of this membership should not 'humiliate' the country, said Panagiota Bleta, a 40-year old Athenian demonstrator."
Bleta told the Telegraph, "We just want our dignity back. We don't want a deal where we stay in the euro and suffer a humiliation. It's time to create a Europe of equals, where Greece is not part of a third-speed Europe."
Anti austerity protestors gathering in Athens. Plenty of music, carnival atmosphere so far pic.twitter.com/15V45Grusl— Mehreen (@MehreenKhn) June 17, 2015
Of the deadlock, Reuters reports:
Neither side has shown any sign of yielding, with creditors insisting it is up to Greece to make concessions to secure a cash-for-reforms deal so the government can honor looming debt repayments and avoid a potentially disastrous default.
Far from giving ground, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras launched a new attack on the lenders in an article in a German newspaper, slamming what he called their "blind insistence" on pension cuts he said would worsen his country's crisis.
At Wednesday evening's demonstration, protesters said they had Tsipras's back—and warned him not to back down.
"Being here today can be read in two ways," Giannis M. who rallied at Syntagma, told the Athens News Agency-Macedonian Press Agency. "On the one hand we pressure the government not to give in. The people will always be here, like they were five years ago on Syntagma. On the other hand, we show our lenders that the government is not alone, people support it."