The Greek government has sought to downplay the significance of Sunday’s ‘Macedonia is Greece’ rally in Athens claiming only “several thousand” participated.
A statement released from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ office, took a swipe at organizers and opposition politicians who were expecting millions to descend on the Greek capital.
“[Former Greek premier] Mr Samaras and [opposition New Democracy leader] Mr Mitsotakis’ estimates for millions of protesters proved wrong,” it read.
Greek police said around 140,000 people participated in Sunday’s rally in and around Syntagma Square, using footage shown by a police helicopter.
However, the time the video was taken in not known as the timer on the top left hand corner of the screen is blacked out.
Minister of Citizens’ Protection Nikos Toskas claimed that the timer was faulty and it was showing a different date.
Critics suspect that the video was taken much earlier than 2 p.m. local time (1200GMT) when the rally was due to start and the crowd was thinner.
Organizers claim the crowd was above one million.
Many social media users are ridiculing the government’s attempt to play down the rally. Vice-president of opposition New Democracy party, Adonis Georgiadis, posted the photo below on Twitter, asking: “Are they not ashamed to claim only 140,000?”
The president of Greek a police officers’ group (POESY) also mocked the official estimates. Grigoris Gerakaros posted a photo on his Facebook page showing the crowds gathered in and around Syntagma Square.
He wondered whether the crowd was only two times the capacity of Olympic Stadium in Athens, which can hold up to 65,000.
Video footage shows a huge crowd covering not just Syntagma Square but many roads leading to it. Independent observers say the crowd was several hundred thousand strong.
A lawmaker from Tsipras’ SYRIZA party and former minister Dimitris Mardas estimated that the demonstrators numbered between 500,000 to 560,000.
Speaking to SKAI TV, he said he took expert advice and calculated that each square meter at Syntagma square was occupied by between 3.2 and 3.5 people. Given that the overall space covers 160,000 square meters, he reached the conclusion that the crowd was in excess of half a million.