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Greeks Filled Athens' Syntagma Square to Say 'Yes' to the EU Bailout Plan Last Night

Many preferred the idea of austerity and budget cuts to the fear of the unknown.

by Melpomeni Maragkidou
Jul 1 2015, 2:30pm

All Photos by Panagiotis Maidis.

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece.

Just one day after a demonstration gathered thousands of 'No' voters in Athens' city center, Syntagma Square was once again filled with people. This time, however, it was the 'Yes' voters who were out in force.

Since a referendum was announced early last Saturday morning, the Greek public has been divided. The referendum—scheduled for Sunday, July 5—was called to decide whether the Greek people should accept the draft agreement proposed by the country's lenders. However, since Greece defaulted on its IMF loans last night, just a few hours after proposing a third bailout plan that would exclude the international organization, many are wondering whether Sunday's proposed referendum will happen at all.

What was easily palpable in Syntagma Square on Tuesday afternoon was the anger and resentment brought about by the closure of banks early this week and the fact that cash machines are now limiting withdrawals to about $70 a day.

Those who gathered on Tuesday afternoon showed their support for a 'Yes' vote that would keep the country in the Eurozone. Just a few meters away, in Propylaea, extra-parliamentary left activists and anarchist groups had gathered to protest the 'Yes' rally. The police prevented the counter-demonstrators from marching to Syntagma Square so the two groups never met.

I met first-time demonstrator Michalis in Syntagma square. He's 28, works in finance, and told me: "Things are very difficult. I am in a situation where I can take care of myself. I make just over £700 [$1,090] a month. I've managed, with a lot of hardship, to earn an amount that allows me to live—not exactly comfortably—but normally. I don't live by myself though, I live with my parents. I could probably live alone but I'd barely scrape by."

"The ideological reason behind me being here is that Greece is part of the European Union. One thing that I hear from a lot of 'No' supporters is that they don't see how things can get any worse. Sure, things have been miserable for five years and yes, the measures that have been suggested are really tough and will hurt people, but really, things can get so much worse if we vote 'No.'"

Jason is 23 years old and studying mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Athens. He thinks that "the situation is tragic. I will vote yes because the drachma means destruction, as well as isolation. Not wanting to take a risk shouldn't mean having to go back to the drachma. I'm in favor of signing the memorandum and negotiating. When you borrow from someone, you don't get to set the terms of the contract."

Dimitris is 18 years old and studying in Hungary.

Many young people who are studying abroad were present at the demonstration, too. Dimitris is 18 years old and studying in Hungary. "Personally, I can't take any more of the government's gambling when it comes to our future in Europe," he said. "There is no guarantee that a 'No' vote will keep us in the Euro or Europe. I think 'Yes' is best for the country."

Panagiotis is 22 and studying in England. He came back to Greece for a holiday and just so happens to be in town for the referendum. He said: "I want to stay in Europe. I don't support Tsipras, I don't support any party, I am here as a Greek European. I believe that this is where we belong and where we should stay. I will vote 'Yes.' I prefer the Euro and its difficulties to returning to the drachma and going 500 years back."

Socrates is a 24-year-old student at the Athens Polytechnic University and in a couple of weeks he will be entering the army, which in Greece is mandatory for men. So far, he's been working two part-time jobs without any sort of insurance, making about £220 [$340] a month. "I haven't been affected by the new capital controls because I have no money in the bank," he said. "Whether it ends up being a 'Yes' or a 'No,' the situation is a mess. The question is whether to choose something that's difficult but we are used to, or something that is completely unknown to us."

"The government hasn't told us what a 'No' vote or a 'Yes' vote actually mean. I'm voting 'Yes' because I don't trust them. I'm in favor of signing the new memorandum. I have been in favor of the measures from the start, because I believe that us Greeks are unable to sort out our country, so someone else has to do it. "I'm worried about joining the army during such an unstable period but I don't really have a choice. Even if we don't have money as a country, the army will still get paid and I'll be able to eat," Socrates concluded.

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