An activist describes the Greek protests in Sintagma Square in May-August 2011

Lower Square had a General Assembly every night at 6:00 or 7:00 where people who didn’t have a voice expressed themselves about what needs to be done. The majority of people in the lower Square were not anarchists, but many were left-wing. Most were people who weren’t involved with politics but were frustrated with corruption and wanted to participate for the first time, not just suffer. The main demand was real democracy–the webpage was titled Real Democracy Now. Protesters were against being transformed into an authoritarian political party or any other organization.

Sintagma Park was filled with tents. Meals were prepared every day by volunteers, along with a time bank exchange of services without money, creating a sense of community. The biggest demonstrations were every Sunday—around 200,000 people at the largest one. I was there when the demonstrations were organized and participated in general assemblies, and witnessed lots of work cleaning and preparing meals. Although it was very peaceful, at the end of June, some protests became violent, due to hooded people and the police. The Square was annoying to the government, so they exploited the violence to justify using tear gas. During a concert on the lower Square, the police threw teargas, like a chemical war. The people hung the spent canisters like trophies.** Thousands came back to the square to clean the teargas, a very touching moment. In August, the tents were cleared by the police.

Did it have an outcome? Probably not. The same memorandums were signed by SYRIZA at the same time it supported the demonstrations, so they started to fade out. Since a new memorandum was signed, some felt there was no impact. The violence also contributed to the decline of demonstrations. SYRIZA was initially a radical left-wing party and people invested their hopes in that party’s anti-memorandum rhetoric, said they would tear them up, so they stayed home waiting for SYRIZA to oppose the Troika. In a referendum to say in the EU or leave, 62% said NO, leave. There was a celebration in July 2015, a big celebration in the square, for the no vote, but the government did the opposite action and signed the memorandum. The money the government collects goes to the banks, not the Greek people. That was the last big moment in the Square. This year people lost hope. But the legacy was local assemblies in neighborhood that discuss the environment and need for green spaces and gardens, issues of solidarity, organizing meals for people in need like the thousands of refugees because the state was absent. Another legacy is social centers and an activist mentality shaped younger people. A few months ago we gathered stuff for the refugees, a self-organized effort. The square was filled with people, self-organized volunteers, with piles organized for food, clothes, babies, etc. I learned about it on Facebook. Such initiatives are a legacy, although they also existed before due to the economic crisis.

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