For the last 30 days, Greek citizens have taken over Syntagma Square, the most central square of Athens, demanding a public vote since May 22nd. They have been standing there, opposite the Greek parliament, 24 hours per day, demanding a referendum on a number of issues, including if Greece should pay back its debt.
International media outlets have been comparing the movement with those in Egypt and Tunisia against their dictatorial governments, however in Greece the situation is more complex and very different than the Arab world.
In the country that gave birth to democracy, why would its people protest against a legally voted government, especially since these people may have voted for it? Thomas Slamaris, the spokesman for the 300 Greeks, the first group who took over the square, says that, “Greek people have been deceived by the political system and the media thus voted based on lies.”
Often the public does not really understand the objectives of the ever-expanding group who is taking over Syntagma, or how the movement started. We hope that our interview with Thomas Slamaris will give answers to people inside and outside of Greece.
“We were angry with the political system and the situation in Greece and on the 22nd of May, we formed a group and headed to Syntagma,” Slamaris states.
“We are everyday citizens from students to clerks and have no affiliation with any political party. All we want is a direct public vote.”
Since the beginning, the 300 Greeks, as they call themselves, have grew into thousands, joined every other day by different groups who organize protests at the square.
“We sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Parliament but they never responded. They see us everyday here but they have never reached out to us, or our organizing committee.”
Often the protests end with clashes between police and angry groups who throw molotof coctails at them. These rare incidents have managed to disrupt peaceful protests.
“We don’t know the people that cause the fights and haven’t seen them here before. We are suspicious that these individuals may be associated with the police and are trying to interrupt our peaceful protests intentionally”.
“We don’t want to destroy our Democracy, we protect it. We don’t want to overthrow the government, all we ask for is a public vote for a number of issues that the country is facing.”
Slamaris closes the interview saying that even if some of the protesters are responsible for Greece’s political dead-end now people have changed. “If there is a government we can trust, people of Greece are ready to make sacrifices and really change the country.”