ATHENS — Thousands of Greeks have lined a main central Athens avenue despite rain to watch the country’s annual Independence Day military parade, with spectators allowed along the route for the first time in about three years.
The crowds at the March 25 parade, where tanks rolled down the street and fighter jets and military helicopters flew overhead, were in stark contrast to last year’s event, which took place under heavy security. Spectators had only been allowed near the end of the route.
Authorities limited public access to national parades after protesters had heckled officials attending such events over the handling of Greece’s financial crisis and austerity measures imposed in return for billions of euros in international rescue loans.
March 25 marks the start of Greece’s 1821 uprising against the Ottoman Empire.
The routes the previous few years were mostly empty as only VIP’s and invited guests were allowed to watch from the most prominent spots as the public was banned, leading critics to viciously point out the irony of a closed Independence Day parade.
The closings came after crowds heckled politicians, including then-President Karolos Papoulias, and as then-Premier Antonis Samaras had them essentially shut down to keep people away despite the significance of the day. It resulted in people staying home and leaving politicians and VIP’s to have a mostly private parade.
The new coalition government of the Radical Left SYRIZA and Independent Greeks decided to open the parade, although it was hampered by rain.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)
Source: The National Herald