Time period notes
Methods in 1st segment
Methods in 2nd segment
- protesters collectively made "motitzas" (open palm gestures that symbolize anger and distain) directed at parliament.
- protesters tried to prevent members of parliament from entering parliament building.
Methods in 5th segment
Methods in 6th segment
Nonviolent responses of opponent
Groups in 1st Segment
Groups in 3rd Segment
Success in achieving specific demands/goals
Notes on outcomes
In early 2011, the Greek state developed a plan of austerity measures to meet its debt repayments. Due to major financial problems, it had just failed to meet the budget targets established in 2010 when it received a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Eurozone. The new proposal to be voted on in June 2011, called “The Medium Term Economic Program,” included the privatization of a number of industries and utilities including but not limited to power and water companies, ports, banks, and the train operator. It also involved tax hikes, spending cuts, and wage cuts. At this time, the unemployment rate was already quite high and on the rise (16.2% in March 2011, up from 11.6% the previous spring). The new memorandum threatened to further affect the living conditions of the lower classes.
In May 2011, Spanish Indignados, members of a grassroots protest movement starting in Madrid around the same time against Spanish austerity, posted on Facebook asking if Greece was “asleep.” Some facebook users in Athens responded to the post with “we are awake,” and invited fellow Greeks to a rally in Syntagma Square (opposite the Parliament building) on 25 May 2011. On 25 May, tens of thousands of protesters participated in a series of demonstrations and gatherings in different cities throughout Greece, with the largest group of around 20,000 in Syntagma Square. Those involved in the demonstrations came from a variety of socio-economic classes, ranging from unemployed and homeless people to students and people with professional careers, and from across the political spectrum.
The events of 25 May marked the start of a campaign across Greece against the proposed memorandum, and rallies continued. Syntagma Square remained the center of the campaign. Protesters occupied it constantly over the course of the summer and held nightly meetings there to discuss goals and plan actions.
Initially (during the end of May and beginning of June), the crowd maintained a diverse mix of class and political ideology. From the beginning, there were no explicit leaders of the campaign. Participants also banned discussion of specific ideologies in order to create an open space for everyone to engage in discussion and change together. In reality however, certain political and social divisions still existed.
Protesters in Syntagma Square divided themselves geographically, with the more focused, politicized, and radical group in one part and the more ideologically and socio-economically diverse group, which also included more new people to political and social activism, in a different part. The first group, which was more confrontational and included those more inclined toward the use of violence, criticized the second group for being too “commercialized” and not radical enough. The first group also often dominated discussions at the meetings and assemblies. Over time, the second group shrank.
On 15 June, protesters engaged in their first general strike. The same day, they held a demonstration in Athens that drew over 200,000 people. During the demonstration, police and protesters engaged in violent clashes, causing a shift in the energy and focus of the campaign. This transition is illustrated in a change from slogans with a focus on the economy and politicians (for example, “thieves,” and “all politicians to go”) to those with a more anti-police and anti-state focus.
15 June also marked a turning point with changes in several additional areas. It was the first day of a break from the originally nonviolent discourse of the campaign, and from this point on, the calls for pacifism from certain protesters lost support. Violence from some protesters highlighted the divisions and tensions within the group, which had previously been partially masked by the participants’ shared opposition to the memorandum. Additionally, at this point, the number of protesters began to decrease.
28 June was the first day of the vote on the austerity package, and the same day, protesters began a 48-hour strike. By this point, the crowd had shrunk to around 20-30,000 people and had become significantly more ideologically and socio-economically homogeneous and more militant than it had been at the 25 May protest. 1,000 protesters attacked a group of 20-30 fascists, who had to be saved by the police.
On 29 June, the second day of the parliamentary vote, the protests continued. 40-50,000 protesters tried without success to prevent members of parliament from entering the Parliament building. During demonstrations, riot police threw stones at protesters. They also enclosed a group in a metro station and then sent tear gas down the stairs. As a result of this violence, a number of protesters at Syntagma Square and around the University of Athens were sent to the hospital. Meanwhile, other protesters attacked several luxury hotels and set a post office on fire.
By the end of 29 June, the parliament voted in favor of the Medium Term Economic Program. This marked the second major turning point in the campaign.
On 30 June, in response to the vote of the previous day, there were many small demonstrations and some occupations in several Greek cities, and a strong sense of anger spread across the country. After the vote, however, a general feeling of defeat and disappointment filled many protesters, and for the rest of the summer, the number of attendees at the continued rallies and assemblies decreased. The number of events decreased as well.
In the middle of September, negotiations with the mayor of Athens forced the remaining protesters to leave Syntagma Square. At this point, the campaign ended without reaching its goal of preventing the austerity measures.
(1) The campaign was inspired (and in fact triggered) by the Spanish Indignado movement. They were also inspired by campaigns in North Africa.
"BBC News - Greece crisis: MPs approve drastic austerity measures." BBC - Homepage. N.p., 29 June 2011. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13960947>.
"BBC News - Spain's Indignados protest here to stay." BBC - Homepage. N.p., 15 May 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18070246>.
"The 'Indignados' Movement in Greece." Blaumachen. N.p., 24 Nov. 2011. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <www.blaumachen.gr/2011/11/the-‘indignados’-movement-in-greece/>.
Tsaliki, Liza. "The Greek 'Indignados': the Aganaktismeni as a case study of the 'new repertoire of collective action'." Transmediale Media Art Fesival. Berlin. 31 Jan. - 5 Feb. 2012. Lecture. <http://www2.media.uoa.gr/people/tsaliki/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Tsaliki_The_Greek_Indignados.pdf>.