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    Posted June 29, 2011 by
    Athens, Greece
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Protests in Greece

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    Back when peaceful demonstrations in Greece were massive and meaningful...


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Alex91 shot these pictures and video over the month of June, as anti-austerity protests in Athens, Greece, intensified. Police attempts to contain the protests have been brutal: 'Yesterday, police officers threw chemicals inside the makeshift medical ward of the square where volunteer doctors were treating hundreds of demostrators,' he said. 'Police brutality in Greece is a disturbing fact beyond any doubt.'
    - jmsaba, CNN iReport producer

    *in the video I uploaded, people are motioning towards the parliament, shouting “Thieves” in Greek…


    Over this last month, the world's attention has shifted from the inspiring uprisings in the Arab world to the European Debt Crisis and to the problems facing the Greek Economy. It wasn't long before the press, all over the world, came up with this grand and rather non-original and obvious title for the situation: "the Greek Tragedy"!

    The situation was analyzed and the comments of both Greek and Europeans leaders were commented upon by many political analysts across the world's media. However, very little was done to actually  give meaning to the hardship facing every Greek and explain to the world that a whole nation is facing an impending doom, concerning its people's life and dreams ...a very real and modern tragedy indeed!

    The recent pictures and videos portray a very grim scene: The city centre of Athens, the birthplace of democracy, and its historic Constitution square are engulfed in grey clouds of poisonous fumes. Fighting between riot police and angry masked people is everywhere. Stones, Molotov cocktails and stun bombs are airborne and all the peaceful demonstrators are fleeing to catch their breath and save themselves from the chemical weapons, the stones and the police officers' boots....

    It wasn’t always like that!

    In fact, the Greek people have witnessed the smooth organization of massive, peaceful demonstrations over the previous weeks, that went rather unnoticed by the rest of the world, perhaps due to the fact that no bloodshed was involved. All those protests were part of a movement, that started in Spain and quickly spread across Europe. Its name was the "Indignados" and its goal? To encourage people in Europe, of all ages, backgrounds, political views and financial situations to gather, protest peacefully and simply state that they are "fed-up" with austerity, dishonest state officials, a never-ending crisis and the fact that people who can and should pay their share, actually don't.

    It worked! Every day for the last 4 weeks, people have been gathering in front of the House of Parliament in Greece in great numbers, that some days ranged in the several hundred thousand. (as usual estimates vary between 250.000 to 500,000). One could see old men in their eighties, struggling to stay standing, and young boys and girls on their parents soldiers. Priests wearing their black mantels, immigrants and  people in wheelchairs. Inside this crowd there were disappointed right-wingers and left-wingers, conservatives and over-eager patriots. Both rich and poor. There has never been a more diverse group of protesters gathered in the same place for the same purpose, in recent Greek history. And that's a good thing...

    The atmosphere during those massive gatherings was neither ominous or thick with anger. On the contrary, most people were happy to be there. They were playing music, they were dancing and singing songs of encouragement, optimism, with lyrics emphasizing the power of the society and the need for a fair and just state.

    And most importantly, the people were organizing assemblies, such as those pictured above. There every man and woman had the right to speak their mind and decisions were taken. Economists were invited to speak and law makers proposed ways to improve both the governance of Greece, its finances and democracy in general!

    Two of the pictures I include show this deeply symbolic, yet also daring and worthy endeavor. Thousands of people of all ages sitting peacefully down on the ground of Constitution Square, hearing their fellow country-men state their woes and rocking their brains to improve election processes, state accountability and what has become known as “democracy”....just a few meters away from its original birthplace and just in front of the dishonored House of Parliament. All this done in a peaceful manner, in a spirit of true solidarity among the people and in a very creative atmosphere, where everyone has the right to address the "nation". Several thousand eager reformers versus 300 incompetent, coward politicians!

    Much will be said concerning these gatherings and it is certain that they will not be forgotten by the Greeks. All the accomplishments and votes of the Assemblies of the peaceful demonstrators have been kept safe and will be there for many generations to come, to be studied, scrutinized and perhaps used in the governing of Greece.

    We can only hope that peaceful and meaningful protests will be organized again. We can only hope that our European partners will truly ease the burden that was placed on our shoulders by incompetent politicians, and not make the situation worse for us, by demanding cruel austerity and more loans. We can only hope that our fellow European citizens will understand that Greeks are neither lazy nor overeager spenders and loan -receivers; the Greek Debt is the result of unknown, unauthorized, unregulated government lending. No one knows where the money eventually went. We can only hope that police brutality will stop and will not result in human casualties. We can only hope that those responsible will pay, both in Euros and in the currency of Justice. We can only hope that the state will let us demonstrate once more in a peaceful manner. We can only hope for the world’s understanding. We can only hope for true democracy . We can only hope…

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