Not Just Anarchists: New Democracy Movement Blooms In Greece

Greece’s image has taken a hit from both U.S. and international media, as scenes of protests against the new austerity measures under vote in parliament show self-styled “anarchists” -- or what in Greek translates to “hood-wearers” -- fighting against the police with a mutual exchange of tear gas and marble chipped from buildings.

But this is a sideshow.

Hundreds, if not thousands of the aganaktismeni -- loosely translated as “those who are fed up” -- have been undertaking a peaceful, around-the-clock protest in front of the Greek parliament building in Syntagma Square. They sleep in tents in the main square and are extremely organized, with special teams assigned to keeping the square spotless. It’s cleaner than it ever was during the days of the 2004 Olympics.

The aganaktismeni are practicing democracy in its purest Greek form. Amid all the economic misery, unemployment, slashed payrolls, and indecision about the future, they are holding ongoing discussions in the main square where anyone -- just like in ancient Greece -- is allowed to voice opinions without repercussions. They have established an ancient Greek agora, where Socrates, Plato, and their contemporaries created the world’s first democracy. They hold daily seminars and discussions in search of a way forward. Instead of joining the anarchists, these protesters are conducting intelligent, serious discussions.

The aganaktismeni cause has been hijacked by more violent elements -- which according to the latest post-riot reports, had been encouraged if not blatantly supported by the riot police forces. Videos have surfaced of hooded rioters, crowbars in hand and stun grenades on their belts, chatting with riot police and just walking away -- and in some cases, being escorted to safety by the police.

Meanwhile, the brunt of the police retaliation seems to have been borne by the peaceful aganakstimeni, with the police even launching tear gas into the Syntagma metro station where a makeshift hospital had been thrown together. The smell of teargas persisted even days after the riots were over.