Greek protesters rally for mass action

Protest organisers said a human chain would be formed around the legislative chamber on Wednesday.

Athens: Thousands of Greeks protesting in front of Parliament over the government`s economic policies called on Sunday for mass participation in a general strike next week.

Protest organisers at the central Syntagma Square said a human chain would be formed around the legislative chamber on Wednesday as deputies started debating a new controversial round of austerity cuts.

Wednesday`s general strike is timed to hit the government as it prepares to push through parliament a new austerity package worth over EUR 28 billion (USD 40 billion) by 2015.

At least 15,000 people according to police estimates gathered on Greece`s main square for a third Sunday in a row, their numbers thinned by a three-day weekend that sent many Athenians to beaches and the countryside.

A week ago, media estimates placed the number of participants at around 100,000 people, plus thousands more in Thessaloniki, Greece`s second city.

The non-political, non-ideological demonstrations that began in Greece on May 25, modelled on a similar mobilisation in Spain led by a group calling themselves "The Indignants", are now in search of direction.

Several speakers picked by lottery to address Sunday`s Assembly directly referred to the issue of moving from organisation to action.

"If these streams of people do not unite, they will be absorbed back into the earth," said a young protester dressed in blue fatigues stamped with the word `Hellas` (Greece) on his back.

"We need to move on to decisions. When have gatherings of 500,000 people been seen in Greece in the last 30 years?" the 30-year-old asked to applause from an all-age crowd.

"We need to plan beyond the general strike," added a girl. "There are many out there who are waiting for this mobilisation to fizzle out."

Other protesters flashed laser pens at the Parliament and media crews stationed on the balconies of luxury hotels flanking the square.

The unprecedented, apparently leaderless gatherings have baffled attempts at categorisation, though sociologists have pointed to a growing political apathy evident at past elections.

Some 40 percent of voters abstained in last November`s municipal ballot, up from 30 percent in the last national elections in 2009.

"So far it is a spontaneous and dynamic social mobilisation," Vassiliki Georgiadou, a political scientist at Athens` Panteio University, wrote in To Vima daily on Sunday.

"Whether it becomes an actual social movement depends on its duration, the emergence of leaders and the expression of social goals," she said.

Greeks feel indignant and are voicing their discontent to the government, which has just agreed to a new wave of spending cuts and tax hikes amid a deep recession and job layoffs in order to safeguard a new package of financial help from its creditors.

Spanish protesters decrying their country`s economic crisis since mid-May on Sunday dismantled their encampment in Madrid`s Puerta del Sol square that had become a symbol of the anti-establishment movement.

But their Greek counterparts on Syntagma Square have vowed not to budge.

"We will stay on the squares until those who created today`s impasse leave and do not return under another guise," the Syntagma protest group said, pointing the finger at politicians, banks and the `troika` of Greece`s international creditors -- the EU, IMF and European Central Bank.

Opinion polls show most Greeks have lost confidence in the country`s government and a political and judicial system that has repeatedly failed to uproot endemic corruption.

Bureau Report

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