Ever since the crisis began, demonstrations have taken place almost daily. However, after the police evicted the occupiers of central Syntagma square and the last bill mandating compliance with the demands of the IMF and the Central European Bank was passed in parliament, they have become fewer, as if the Greeks got resigned to their fate. That doesn’t mean that the old spirit doesn’t flare up from time to time, as it did the other day.
Most people don’t learn of the demonstrations until they run into one, as I did.
The first sign that something is up is the lack of traffic.
Then there is a whiff of a strange, stinging smell – it is of course teargas, liberally used by the riot police. Ah, there they are, in the distance.
The normally gridlocked streets are now pleasantly empty and taken over by pedestrians. Bus lines do not operate and metro stations are closed in the affected area, so people walk – some to their business, others back to the square from where they ran to avoid the gas. A street vendor follows the crowd in the hope of doing brisk business…
…and quickly sets up his stall.
Nobody seems to pay any attention to the light-colored blotches left on the tarmac by teargas canisters. It’s a hot day, so the gas has dissipated quickly. Someone set a trashcan on fire to speed things up. People walk by the burning can indifferently.
Teargas and heat call for plenty of water; the archaeologist in me takes in the number of discarded artifacts that litter the site to judge the size of the population that left them. It seems that quite a large crowd was here before the police chased them away.
The demonstration is far from over and the police know it. They have fenced off the monument of the Unknown Soldier where the presidential guards stand in ceremonial stillness. Some tourists are disappointed that they’re not allowed closer.
The police have also fenced off the avenue that leads to the residences of the president and the prime minister, allowing only a narrow passage for pedestrians.
Meanwhile, some firemen are packing their gear, after putting out a small fire on the branches of a palm tree.
A spent teargas canister lies innocently nearby.
As for the crowd, it continues to grow; those who were chased away return one by one and are joined by newcomers, preparing for a second attack and chase. They all take their place across the street from the parliament.
Having lost all hope that their opinions will ever be taken into account by their representatives, the crowds now only hope that their voice of dissent will be spread by the media. But since the latter have displayed a willingness to present the government’s view of events, that hope grows dimmer by the day. No wonder the crowds get thinner and streets are more often gridlocked than not.