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Outrage and disenchantment in Greece ahead of austerity vote

The protests have become the largest social movement in Greece since martial law in 1974. More than a pushback against austerity, they hint at broad skepticism toward Europe's leaders.

Protesters gestured toward the Greek Parliament during a peaceful rally in Syntagma Square, Athens, on June 19. Thousands rallied against fiscal austerity measures, and denounced politicians.

Kostas Ts ironis/AP

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The upstart crowd camped out on Syntagma Square in front of the Greek Parliament is like no other in Greek history. Yes, it is rough around the edges. No, it does not have solutions to the years of debt and corruption that have Greece near default. Yet since May 24, the movement organized through social media has continued to swell and turned heads as a new voice of the people, the power of the Greek powerless.

Critically, it is largely nonviolent. On Tuesday, however, the violent fringes smashed windows and drew shots of tear gas from riot police. But this protest movement has been one of baby strollers and roasting corn rather than molotov cocktails, skinheads, or communist red flags. The only flag is Greek. Trotskyites and Orthodox priests tolerate each other. The usual anarchists and fascist suspects lurk only on the margins.

By mid-June, the gathering – a crazy quilt that shares elements of a tea party caucus, the Arab Spring, an antiglobalization rally, and a Haight-Ashbury commune – had become the largest social movement in Greece since martial law in 1974. These aganaktismenoi, or so-called outraged, earned enough public credibility to nearly end the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou on June 15 as it sought €28 billion ($40 billion) in new austerity cuts.

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