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Citizens protests instead of parades for the day of the historical "No"

28 October 2011 / 19:10:46  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova 

In a protest against the policy of the Greek government and a request to resign has turned the today's celebration of the 71st anniversary of the day on which the country said "no" to the Tripartite Pact and began fighting Mussolini's Italian troops, which is traditionally associated with a large military parade in Thessaloniki and school parades throughout the country. Thousands of students and citizens have expressed their discontent in different ways and forced politicians to leave the rostrums with reproving slogans.

The parade in the second largest Greek city was postponed for the first time after a group of angry citizens had taken the promenade Alexander the Great and some even tried to surround the rostrum with official guests.

Once it became clear that the protesting residents of Thessaloniki did not intend to leave the boulevard, President Karolos Papoulias left the rostrum under a shower of whistling and offensive slogans. "Who are those who are calling me a traitor? I was 15 years old when I fought against fascism," said the President and withdrew along with the other official guests. Then, the police drew back and the protesters took the rostrum, stretching a protest placard reading, "Anger will choke us" and sang the national anthem. The military parade never took place, but six thousand residents of Thessaloniki applauded the veterans, the members of the special units, the staff of Civil Defence and the cultural associations in the city.

Especially characteristic of the intensity of the events was the conversation of the Minister of Defence Panos Beglitis with officers. "They are making a sight of us and you are doing nothing. If you do not open the boulevard in 10 minutes I will take the President and we will leave," he said.

After leaving the rostrum, Karolos Papoulias went immediately to Athens. "We owe an apology to the President" was the reaction of Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris. Then, it became clear that the military parade would not take place and he said that today they had enjoyed ridiculing the institutions. According to the deputy governor of Central Macedonia Apostolos Dzidzikostas, small groups, whose purpose was to dim the celebration of the anniversary, had caused the events.

Less pressure, but violent slogans and whistling marked the students parade in Athens. Students and protesters surrounded Syntagma Square from all sides and chanted slogans against the government and the Minister of Education Anna Diamantopoulou, who was at the rostrum. Many students in the parade turned away their faces from the rostrum when passing along it, while others had black cloths in their hands in protest against the government's education policy, which left them without textbooks and enough teachers.
The municipal philharmonic orchestra played with black armbands despite the warning of Mayor George Kaminis that if they were wearing them, they would be called on Monday to explain to the disciplinary board, facing the danger of dismissal.

After the parade, people who had gathered around the heavily guarded police barriers continued to protest. They called the ministers traitors and urged them to resign. One protester was holding the Greek national flag the blue colour on which had been replaced with black, and others - a Nazi slogan with the inscription placed at the entrance of the concentration camp at Dachau, "Work liberates."

The celebration of the anniversary of the historic "no" in 1940 passed similarly in all major urban centres. In Iraklion in Crete, in Volos, Rhodes, Kalamata, Kozani, Patras, Agrinio, Alexandroupoli, Trikala, Ceres, and in central Greece, the participants in school parades and all other citizens booed the government and did not allow the celebration to take place calmly. In Xanthi, the official guests were forced to withdraw quickly from the rostrum, when the protesters decided to hold a procession after the parade.

"The government is looking at the social unrest its policy has brought and is not able to respond," was the comment of the New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras after today's events in Thessaloniki. He did not save his criticism for all that "dimmed our national holiday."

"They are the ones who have hurt our national pride, dimmed the picture of all the Greeks, and they have hurt the memory of our heroes. At a time when the country is counting its wounds and trying to stand on its feet, our national symbols and the Greek history should not be associated with a disastrous government. This is a devastating response to a disastrous policy. Only our enemies would like to see us divided today," said Antonis Samaras.

From the far-right LAOS party, they insisted for the resignation of the Minister for Citizen Protection Christos Papoutsis. In its message, the party is harshly attacking the "popular leftists" accusing them of trying to reverse the democratic political system.

Tags: SocietyPoliticsCelebrationNational holidayMilitary paradeProtestPresidentGovernment
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