Showing contempt for the people

Once again, downtown Athens became a hell on earth for the innocent yesterday. Thousands of drivers were trapped in the baking streets just because a comparatively small group of demonstrators (unfortunately aided and abetted by the state authorities) decided to block the capital’s main thoroughfares. In Greece, the right to protest is held sacred – as it should be. But equally sacred are the rights of the rest of the people who live and struggle to get around in a city that is difficult in every sense. It is unacceptable, in the name of a spurious democratic spirit, to trample on the rights of 4 million people. Between the right of some people to protest and the right of the rest to freedom of movement, there should be some criterion of proportion. And that should depend on the size of the demonstration and the place it is being held. The latter is the responsibility of the unions. They should know that maximizing the trouble caused to the populace does not maximize the effect of their protest. On the contrary, it only undermines it. Yesterday, students and university faculty members chose to march up central Panepistimiou and Stadiou streets in order to send a message of protest to the Education Ministry on Mitropoleos Street, undermining the purpose of their action. Meanwhile, the authorities must consider the size of the protest and on that basis decide which streets to close and for how long. It is ridiculous that 200 people (that is the average number of demonstrators in a protest march here) can close off main roads for hours on end. Unfortunately, the traffic police do the very opposite of what they should be doing. Instead of facilitating movement within the city, they display far more zeal toward accommodating the needs of a few protesters. They close off main thoroughfares and side streets for long periods of time, when one lane would be enough to allow the demonstration to pass by. In the name of democracy, both the unions and the authorities seem to show contempt for the people.