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Monday 26 September 2016

Athens brought to a standstill by Yes and No rallies

Published 04/07/2015 | 02:30

A woman wearing a No sticker on her face attends a rally in central Athens
A woman wearing a No sticker on her face attends a rally in central Athens
Protestors wave Greek flags in front of the parliament building during an anti-austerity rally in Athens
'Yes' supporters gather during a pro-Euro rally next to the Panathenean stadium in Athens, Greece
'Yes' supporters wave Greek flags during a pro-Euro rally next to the Panathenean stadium in Athens, Greece
'Yes' supporters applaud during a pro-Euro rally in front of the Panathenean stadium in Athens, Greece
'Yes' supporters gather during a pro-Euro rally next to the Panathenean stadium in Athens, Greece

Tens of thousands of Greeks brought Athens to a standstill last night as they poured through the city to separate rallies which have divided the nation. Massive crowds attended both the Yes and No rallies which were held just blocks apart.

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In Syntagma Square, before Parliament buildings, the Syriza party urged the surging crowd to follow through with a No vote.

Musicians entertaining the massive crowds ended each performance with shouts of "Oxi" (No) which echoed around the historic square.

Just blocks away, tens of thousands more had gathered at Kalimarmara, in front of the Olympic stadium - one of the most significant Greek monuments associated with the Games. There crowds gathered among a sea of blue, with thousands of European Union flags waving.

Among those gathered was 20-year-old economics students Georgios.

He had attended with over a dozen university friends. "We want to show that not all young students are voting No. It is important we stay in the Euro if Greece is to grow," he said.

At Syntagma, a smattering of Greek flags mixed with those of Syriza. Among them was student Nikos, who studied civil engineering in university. He graduated a year ago with good results but even at that stage he knew a career in the field was impossible. He has been working as a waiter to get by.

"The building industry completely collapsed so I was aware I would not get work. It is difficult after so many years study.

"I work in a restaurant now but I don't know for how long. People are not coming now, they don't have the money," he said.

Greeks made the most of the free transport around Athens to flock to the rallies.

Trains running to Syntagma were filled well beyond capacity, with the station brought to a standstill by No voters.

Both rallies brought a festival atmosphere to the city, but authorities feared the underlying tensions could spill over into violence, with riot police stationed near the events.

At the Yes rally, three former prime ministers joined the crowds, but it was the appearance of Alexis Tsipras at Syntagma that received the biggest reaction.

Crowds cheered as their leader told them this was not a protest but a celebration.

He called on the crowds to ignore the sirens and the scaremongering and decide for Greece.

"Right is on our side, to have freedom you must have boldness and virtue," he told supporters.

Irish Independent

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