Artists, noise, revolutionaries: what remains of protests in Greece

Article published on July 18, 2011
Article published on July 18, 2011

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

'We are not anti-system, the system is anti-us'. This is just one of many slogans that are prominently displayed on the banners around Syntagma Square in the heart of Athens. The word ochi, meaning ‘no’, can be seen everywhere here: no to the government, no to the financial and political system, no to the betrayal of democracy

On 10 July the so-called 'People's Assembly of Syntagma Square' had even approached the city’s mayor to insist on their right of assembly. However, not much more atmosphere is intended to be created because since then most protestors have gone on holiday to the Greek islands.Young Greeks let off steam to us.


'Democracy is like rock: a lifestyle. The spirit of democracy has become our lifestyle. You must respect others, be patient, listen and understand in order to make a change. We want to start a movement like in the ancient world and renew democracy. Democracy was born here, that is why we Greeks need to re-invent it'

Vassilis, ad producer

'This country simply does not work — neither the politics nor the state. That is because there is no agenda. This country is not working towards a plan. The people just think about today; they never think about tomorrow. Greece is beautiful as a place, but not as a country'

Anonymous, art teacher

'We are all involved in politics, that's for sure. But we don’t feel like we are represented by the major political parties — neither the ruling party Pasok nor the opposition new democracy party. Who do they actually represent? Just the 25% of the population who even went to vote. This crisis is not a political, but an economic problem. That is why we can not blame the EU. We are in favour of the European union, but the crisis leaves us with a lot of anger! Greece is an economic dictatorship and nothing more. That is why we are going to stay here and protest against the system. We have only just begun'

Maria, unemployed

'I'm here because I have nothing to lose. I am an artist, but I do not have the means to create what I want. That's why I've invented a new political system: eco-archy. It's mostly about solidarity and about welfare for others. Everything is free - water, food, electricity and housing. There are no cigarettes, no alcohol, no pollution and everyone has to go vegan. It is an ecological system, which ensures that all artists have what they need to be creative. 'Eco-archy' is based on the ancient Greek idea of polis, meaning ‘city-state’. You could say that although wisdom was born in Greece, it did not stay here'

Mal spielt eine Rockband, mal wird die Krise mit Multimediainstallationen künstlerisch in Szene gesetzt. Dann tummeln sich auf dem Syntagma Platz Kommunisten, Hippies, Obdachlose, Politaktivisten, Arbeitslose, Künstler, Anarchos und Schaulustige – und jeder hat eine andere Meinung zur Krise...

Zeus, artist

'I am a volunteer for the free Gaza movement. We came right at the start of the protests on 25 May. We even slept here at first! Our goal is to attack the political system. I do not feel represented by it and I don’t even vote for the greens; I vote for even smaller parties that seem ‘more real’ to me. This building [the Greek parliament above Syntagma Square] means nothing at all now'

A press team joins a first-aid team, security and even waste disposal agents

Calliope, works in a bakery

'The government must step down, the whole political system must be abolished. Democracy should give us a choice, but we don’t have one. This is no longer a democracy because it has nothing more to do with the ideals of ancient Greece. I think the central Europeans think we are lazy because we are always outside. It's just that it’s always hot, so it's normal to sit around together outside. I want to work'

Kostas, unemployed

'A political class of about 10, 000 people alone can not trigger a crisis in a country with 11 million people. But there needs to be more reason for it. If everyone had behaved properly, the problems would not be so huge. It's not just about politicians, but about each individual. The financial crisis is a fact, but the unrest and violence have more to do with domestic political problems. I think it’s more about ethnic tensions that were already there and were probably triggered by the crisis, not only in Greece but also in the Balkans, in Spain and in the Middle East. In my opinion, the media should frequently remind us that there should not be any ethnic violence'

Nikitas, works for an online advertising agency

'The wages are very low right now and jobs hard to find. Until recently I worked as a copywriter in an advertising agency, but because of the crisis I lost my job, and since then I have not found anything new. The government has just announced that they will create 4, 000 new jobs in the police force. Isn’t that a bit strange?'

Anonymous, unemployed

'The Greek and European mass media only provide wrong information about what is happening here. We want our opinion to be heard — not the government’s opinion. Therefore, we established Radio Entasi (93.5FM) in December 2008. We were there even before the protests and we will still be there after them. But Entasi is not a pirate radio! We went out of our way to ask the local government’s permission to broadcast here. At the moment we have twenty volunteers and are trying to be here all day and to broadcast the general assembly live'

Maria, art history student and radio journalist

'I feel comfortable here, because there are no prejudices against foreigners. I am Albanian and everyone accepts me. It’s not easy for Albanians elsewhere in Athens, but everything is okay here. I'm from the security guards and I fight with the police. It’s really cool! But now it is much quieter than last week. I am fighting for the same thing as everyone else, I go where everyone else goes. But actually, I don’t exactly know what it’s about...'

Anonymous, construction worker and security guard

To follow the protests live, visit the real democracy website. Thanks to our local team at Athens

Images: main (cc)biglebo/ Flickr; in-text © Mélodie Labro