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The “I do not pay” movement is growing, the government is taking measures

07 February 2011 / 15:02:21  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Hundreds of citizens gathered today around the cash-boxes along the Athens – Lamia highway. Members of the movement “I do not pay " as well as ordinary citizens had come to lift the cash-boxes barriers and provide free passing for drivers.

This was part of the Panhellenic action during which none of the cash-boxes along the highway were paid a single euro for at least two hours.

The little Yasonas took part in the protest who although only two and a half years old was very active and tough.

Today's action was held under the shadow of the proceedings the prosecutors had instituted against nine members of the movement and residents of the area for organizing similar protests and refusal to pay the toll. The criminal prosecution which was started included the following violations: damage to other persons’ property, disruption of social and domestic peace, transport hampering, disruption of transport security and slandering.

Along with this the Transport Minister Dimitris Repas’ remark “scroungers” intended to the members of the movement provoked their furious reactions.

Here is what Vassilis Sarantopoulos from the movement co-ordination committee said on this occasion:

"The claims were submitted only to make fuss. There is no reason for their submission, there is even no legal basis. They accuse our supporters from Afidnes of vilifying the company Nea Odos. The company blames the citizens while refusing to pay fines of 22 million euros imposed for its illegal constructions around here. The company claims that we are the reason to loose 10 million euros but if the state is paid these 22 million euros it will profit twice as much. They blame us for breach of public peace but we have not yet heard a fox to complain of the noise. Because just foxes live around here.  

Today we, the scroungers, respond to pimps of power. We respond through our mass participation in the movement "I do not pay."

People from the movement shouted slogans like "They can not frighten us, they are only enraging us," while waving to drivers to pass through without paying.

"They should tell us why we pay toll fees. The money is paid to have good roads, isn’t it? We have been paying 45 years for them. Why we have to pay private companies now?

Let some of the journalists who support them answer me. Minister Dimitris Repas called us scroungers but he is the scrounger actually. He has a driver, a guard accompanying him everywhere. And none of the politicians pays for anything. Why do we have to constantly pay for them?"

Some participants in the movement said meanwhile: "The tolls in France are 35 euros annually. Why we should pay 1300 euros here?"

Some of the people did not approve the presence of TV crews, because "they will cut what we say following their bosses’ orders as always. There were even comments such as: "Tell MEGA TV journalists to calm down because of the media’s attitude to the movement."

George Kozmopoulos, also a member of the co-ordination committee of the movement, responded to the transport minister’s remark “scroungers” and sent a message to the government.

"Our response, besides being on the roads throughout Greece is as follows: Mr. Repas, the millions of taxpayers in Greece who paid with their money in recent decades for the road construction and maintenance, for the construction and equipment of hospitals, for the purchase of buses and maintenance of the bases and, of course, pay the salaries of all employees are not scroungers.

Mr. Repas, you and all other politicians who have free offices, free personal security for themselves and their families, free telephones, free petrol, free cars, are the scroungers. I will not mention all the other benefits that you have on the expense of the Greek scrounging citizens. This is our response. You’d better look for scroungers in your circles and in the multinational companies that received these tolls for nothing and it is not right to collect fees from us again."

Panagiotis Lafazanis – lawmaker from the left coalition SYRIZA – appeared at the peak of the protest and declared himself against the tolls and said that the existence of the movement was absolutely justified.

"As you know, we responded to all these measures, particularly to the toll fee. We did not vote for any of the laws on the fees. They were supported by PASOK and New Democracy. We believe that these laws and contracts with the companies should be cancelled and changed to offer the citizens more equitable conditions."

The presence of the lawmaker at the protest caused negative reactions by many participants who began to shout "We do not want politicians here" and "No parties in the movement."

At the same time, the government argues it is ready to introduce measures against the movement, stressing that if there remain citizens who do not pay tolls and punch public transport tickets anarchy will spread all over the country.

It appears that the plan will become effective next week at the tolls cash-boxes where prosecutors will be sent. They will issue orders against offenders who will be arrested by the police. For this purpose, however, it is necessary to determine the exact legal violation made by the citizens before the commencement of proceedings against them.

Tags: PoliticsSocietyCivil movementTollsCocession companies
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