Anti-austerity activists planned new protests for Thursday, April 5th in Syntagma, the day after a retiree publicly killed himself, leaving a note that blasted politicians over the country’s financial crisis. The crisis has cost tens of thousands of jobs, sending unemployment to a record high of 21% while one in two Greeks aged under 25 is jobless — amid a shrinking economy that is not expected to revive for at least two years. Many in the dept-crippled country saw the 77-year-old retired pharmacist as a martyr, whose suicide symbolized the cumulative effect of over two years of economic pain imposed to secure international bailouts shielding the country from bankruptcy.
The retiree chose the morning rush hour to shoot himself in the head near a subway exit on the square — a focal point for protests, across the street from Parliament. The tree under which he died was quickly festooned with notes blaming government-imposed austerity for his death. Dozens gathered on the spot the next day, leaving flowers, Greek flags and candles on the grass.
I photographed around Syntagma during the day on Friday and was able to catch the beginnings of that night’s protests. It was the first night of Passover and I already had seder plans so unfortunately (fortunately?) I wasn’t able to hang around the square after sunset. During the day, the square was very safe and filled with tourists and commuters, yet signs of the impending protests were ever-present.