OXI dokey: A report from a Greek solidarity rally

“We dedicate this song to the people of Greece. We hope everything works out well for them?”

That was how a young guitar player apprehensively kicked off last week’s Greece solidarity rally, held in Astoria’s own Athens Square. It would soon become a microcosm of the chaos that engulfed both Greece and Europe in anticipation of last Sunday’s referendum — the result of which was a resounding “No.”

From the outskirts one could have mistaken it for a run of the mill left-wing gathering, with Spartacists, LaRouche-ites, and small-s socialists making the rounds passing out their flyers and newspapers. As Greece and the European Union continue their showdown over the Greek debt, the leftist Syriza party has become a rallying point for radicals the world over.

It might have seemed like a gathering of would-be revolutionaries. That is, if it hadn’t been for all the Greek flags. Or the signs in Greek. Or the older men and women huddled around benches speaking Greek. Meanwhile, in the middle of the square a teenage rock-band called “The Inoculated Canaries” covered Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II.”

Of the hundred or two people gathered under statues of Plato, Socrates and Athena, few seemed to hold anything in common.

IMG_1681A group of older Greek men standing and chatting among themselves looked at one rallier and asked him if he was Greek. When he answered no, one asked “so why are you holding a Greek flag?” That man, identifying as a member of the “Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum,” said he was just there to support the people.

A pair of high school age girls were filming the boys on stage. They assured passers-by that they had nothing to do with the ralliers or their dozens of flags and signs that read “OXI,” or “no” (pronounced okey as in okey-dokey). They pointed to a middle-aged man, Joe, the concert’s organizer.

Joe, for his part, had booked the square in advance for the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Queens, Inc. and the band. Asked about the rally, he shrugged and said, “Whatever the Greeks do that’s their problem.”

Meanwhile the guitarist made an attempt at bantering: “Some of you may know Dave Grohl broke his leg recently… he’s my hero.” They proceeded to play a decent enough cover of the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero.”

As the boys’ set drew to a close, someone hung a sign behind them reading “Support Greece, Continue the Negotiations.” With many of the protesters supporting a “no” vote and an eventual Greek exit from the Euro, the move provoked no small measure of drama. Several of the demonstrators stood before the sign and chanting “OXI, OXI, OXI,” as the Inoculated Canaries packed their things up quickly and left. Joe took the microphone once more and pleaded: “Let’s everybody leave in peace now.”

The music had evidently kept the peace thus far.

IMG_1682A small group primarily composed of men in suits then took over the stereo system and blasted Greek ballads from the speakers to drown out the “OXI” chants. One of the men in suits sported a beard and a pipe he had been smoking since before the band even began playing. Once things quieted down, Petros Galatoulas, President of the Federation of Hellenic Societies, took the stage along with the other suited men, at which point things quite literally became Greek to me. They gave a series of stump speeches, interrupted by chants of “OXI.”

A young man named Alex explained that the Federation of Hellenic Societies was of a more conservative bent (Republican billionaire John Catsimatidis is a long-time patron), and that they were the ones who hung up the sign. Though their speeches apparently invoked solidarity and called on the ralliers to let the Greek people decide for themselves, they were preventing anyone from the “OXI” side from speaking.

Eventually they did allow a dissenting voice to speak: a Greek-American union-member. Invoking the Fourth of July, he insisted that “the people of Greece must make their own Declaration of Independence from the troika,” the trio of international organizations putting pressure on Greece to accept severe austerity measures. The well-dressed men, including the smoking man, repeatedly tried to take the microphone back. He asserted that Greece should turn to economic stimulus instead of budget cuts. Alex, who defined himself as politically neutral and had been nodding along with the other speakers, admitted that “that’s what 90% of Greeks want.”

The event fizzled out shortly thereafter. Alex at one point remarked: “If they don’t beat each other up, it’ll be a miracle.” Rumors circled that supporters of Greece’s neo-fascist Golden Dawn were present, quietly waiting in the wings. But it never quite came to blows.

Despite the efforts of what one self-described “old lefty” called “the bourgeois contingent” to control the affair, the rally drew a surprising crowd, united only in agreement that the teen band played an alright show.

James Neimeister is a freelance writer from Ohio. His interests include: Russia, Ukraine, education, technology, and "cyberspace."

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8 Responses to “OXI dokey: A report from a Greek solidarity rally”

  1. Rcoutme says:

    Without a fiat currency, Greece can not afford to borrow. Only nations that can print their own money can do that. That is the entire problem with the Eurozone. None of the economic advantages of a federal government exist, but all of the constraints of one do exist.

  2. Ashley_Walker says:

    My cousin woz actualey earning money part-time from there computar. . there dads buddy had bean doing this 4 less than 15 months and recently paid for the morgage on their place and purchased a new Honda . have. a peek at this

    Daily World. Idea Of Earning

  3. BeccaM says:

    What the banksters of Europe are trying to do to Greece is no less than economic terrorism and extortion. It’s legalized plunder, wherein the prescription for the blood-letting which (predictably) led to further economic collapse and depression in Greece is nothing but more blood-letting.

    None of the banksters’ demands will lead to a stable, prosperous Greece which is able to pay its debts. What it will lead to, inevitably, is a bloody revolution.

    After all, it’s not like we haven’t seen this before.

  4. Bill_Perdue says:

    When Syriza folded and accepted the banksters they put Greek workers in the same sinking boat as working people in the Ukraine, Spain and Portugal, bound by chains of imposed austerity and doomed to poverty.

    Greek workers have had enough and if Syriza can’t deliver they’ll go elsewhere. Part of the Syriza coalition are revolutionary socialists. To ensure the continued development of the revolutionary impulses of workers the Greek left should push for a program to:

    • Get out of NATO,

    • Develop close working relations with the Turkish Left and with the anti-Obama, anti-Putin socialist groups and local governments in Ukraine,

    • Disarm and disband the old regimes military, police and security services and replace them with armed workers militias,

    • Default on all debts to predator nations and confiscate their assets if they try to undermine Greek Democracy,

    • Confiscate the wealth of the rich without compensations,

    • Close down nunneries and monasteries and confiscate their land and other assets without compensation,

    • Bill the IMF, the European Central Bank and the Deutsche Bundesbank for all monies collected as a result of their predatory loan policies and charge them high interest rates.

    • Declare an end to austerity and pass laws mandating high wages and good benefits as well as good housing and free medical care and education for the Greek working class.

  5. 2karmanot says:

    I’m waiting for the McDonald Parthenon, were driad cheeseburgers and biggie fries are half off.

  6. Indigo says:

    A happening. No political reference actually required. That’s cool.

  7. HKAnders says:

    From the Telegraph:

    valuable Greek assets of [50 billion euros] shall be transferred to an existing external and independent fund like the Institution for Growth in Luxembourg, to be privatised over time and decrease debt.

    Would that privatization include, perhaps, naming rights to historical sites? I’m sure that a visit to The Mercedez-Benz Parthenon will be the highlight of many a dream vacation in the years to come.

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