Greek protesters camp for weeks, shake politicians

Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:18pm GMT

Every evening a crowd that starts with a few hundred and often swells to several thousand rhythmically pushes open hands towards parliament, a highly offensive gesture in Greece, and chants derogatory slogans comparing MPs to common criminals.


During the day, a few gather in the square sweltering in the summer heat, to organise the evening's events. But in the evening, a "people's assembly" of whoever feels like participating meets to set the discussion agenda, voting is by a show of hands.

A "coordinating committee" of volunteers that changes regularly then passes little pieces of numbered papers to those who want to speak in an ancient Greek agora-style of discussion.

Each speaker gets about two minutes to have a say on any issue they choose and some may even sing. Thumbs down means a speaker's message is rejected, fluttering fingers mean approval and hands rolling means this is not new. The results of votes are uploaded on a website:

"What I like about this square is that people discuss things, they express themselves without fear," said Stavroula Koloverou, 18, a university student who travelled from the southern town of Pyrgos to Athens for the protest.

"We want the system to change and we want all traditional politicians out. We want young people suffering in this system who still have dreams to take over."

After the votes, teams are set up with specific duties, such as collecting garbage, offering first aid, communication, translation, messengers and the "keep cool team" in charge of quickly resolving conflicts.

Apart from the grassroots teams, several organised groups have also joined the protests in the square, including the "I won't pay!" movement which rejects road tolls and transport tickets.   Continued...

<p>Protesters gather in front of the parliament during a rally against austerity economic measures and corruption, in Athens' Constitution (Syntagma) square June 12, 2011. Picture taken with a Fisheye lens. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol</p>
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