Monday, June 20, 2011

Athens protests: Syntagma Square on frontline of European austerity protests

Aditya Chakrabortty in Athens

The area in the centre of the Greek capital is playing host to thousands of angry demonstrators.

Syntagma Square in Athens has become the central point for Greek protests against austerity measures. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

Athenians used to stop off at Syntagma Square for the shopping, the shiny rows of upmarket boutiques. Now they arrive in their tens of thousands to protest. Swarming out of the metro station, they emerge into a village of tents, pamphleteers and a booming public address system.

Since 25 May, when demonstrators first converged here, this has become an open-air concert – only one where bands have been supplanted by speakers and music swapped for an angry politics. On this square just below the Greek parliament and ringed by flashy hotels, thousands sit through speech after speech. Old-time socialists, American economists just passing through, members of the crowd: they each get three minutes with the mic, and most of them use the time alternatively to slag off the politicians and to egg on their fellow protesters.

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