Thousands of Greeks have flocked to downtown Athens to join their voices against the use of term “Macedonia” in the new name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), as Athens and Skopje negotiate to end the 26-year-old name dispute. Protesters started to arrive at Syntagma Square in front of the Greek Palriament already hours before the official start at 2 o’ clock local time. Some 3,000 buses are estimated to have brought protesters from every corner of Greece.
One more live stream from Vergina TV
Key note speaker of the Macedonia protest is famous music composed Mikis Theodorakis. Despite health problems, the 92-year-old arrived at Syntagma short before the start.
Organizers estimate that protesters will be over 1.5 million people.
2: 20 pm The begin has been postponed for at least half an hour as several buses carrying protesters from other regions have not managed to reach the Greek capital.
A Greek flag of 150 sq meters is been held by a crane above the crowd. On picture between Parliament and Syntagma Square.
Mikis Theodorakis started his speech saying “My bothers, fascists, racists, terrorists.” He continued ” I am patriot, internationalist and I struggle against fascism and its most dangerous turn, the leftist fascism.”
“I am not ashamed as the nation-nihilists who govern the country.” There is a minority that rules the country, he said, and “extremists who are coward terrorists.”
“Let the Skopjians live their myth.” If we make concessions today so that FYROM can join the NATO and the EU, tomorrow we may find ourselves in a difficult position as they will threaten us from a much strongest position.”
In every pause the 92-year-old music composer makes, a small group of people on the stage chant “Macedonia is Greek and will remain Greek”, “Hellas! Hellas! Macedonia” and other slogans.”
and a bit of conspiracy theory:
“After Yugoslavia, we [Greece] are the next victims … Big international powers want to carve up the Balkans like salami … We are governed by entho-nihilists,” Theodorakis said.
He said the Greek people should be asked about the name dispute, therefore a referendum.
He concluded his speech saying “We are united like a fist. When one defends the interest of his homeland this is not nationalism but patriotism.”
“Macedonia is one, Macedonia was, is and will be Pan-Hellenic,” Mikis Theodorakis concluded his speech.
Several people on social media criticize organizers for “using” fragile Theodorakis for their own purposes.
Right after Theodorakis, representatives of the Church of Greece addressed the public.
Metropolit of Syros Dorotheos said “The Church of Greece cannot accept the term Macedonia.”
I cannot reckon any representatives of Church of Greece during the anti-austerity protests in Athens and other Greek cities. But the Macedonia issue affects the Church directly due to the defiant Chruch of FYROM.
Golden Dawn leadership and MPs at the Macedonia protest.
Before the rally started…
Greek flag with the sun of Vergina in the middle. 150 square meters.
Several New Democracy lawmakers including former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and deputy ND leader Adonis Georgiadis attend the protest.
When Samaras was Foreign Minister not only he signed FYROM’s provisional name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, he also brought down the Konstantinos Mitsotakis government because of the name dispute in 1993.
Tension in Panepistimiou Avenue when Golden Dawn members holding Greek flags and chanting insulting slogans tried to break the police cordon and come near the anti-Macedonia protest organized by anti-authoritarians and anarchists in front of the Athens University.
Police has strict orders to keep these two groups away from each other to avoid clashes.
Anarchists have reportedly threw stones at policemen.
In a statement Greek Police speaks of a participation of 140,000 people and 283 buses (with 50 seats each) with protesters to have arrived in Athens.
Organizers still claim 1,5 million people have flocked to Syntagma. It is in their interest to claim such a number as this could take influence on the name negotiation between Athens and Skopje and force the Greek government to take into account the people’s opposition and used it also against FYROM.
Some reporter from the spot estimated the crowd at 500,000.
The truth is somewhere between: However had they be 1.5 million people the crowd would have reached the Hilton Hotel and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. But they did not.
Based on these two pictures, I could tip at maximum 150,000-200,000 people.
I could be interested to see how many Athenians joined the protest. What I hear from friends and their broader friends’ cycle, none of them went to the protest. Apparently, because the organizers funded the ticket fares of protesters from other parts of the country.
Interesting to note, that while Television channels did not cover the Macedonia protest in Thessaloniki, and drew criticism for this. Today, state broadcaster ERT covered large part of the protest for about two hours. A private TV channel that supports the opposition started to report as early as 6 a.m. about it and keeps live streaming although first protesters have started tot leave Syntagma Square at 4 o’ clock.
The Live Blog concludes reporting here.
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