The masses at the four-hour demonstration in Thessaloniki yesterday surpassed all expectations, as at 3pm the organizers announced that an amazing 400,000 protesters from all over Greece had inundated the seafront of the country’s second largest city, but police, which always tends towards very conservative estimates of protest turnouts, put the number at around 90,000.
The protest was intended as a resounding message to the government that it does not have a blank check in negotiating the terms of a settlement with Skopje on what the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be called internationally and in its bilateral relations, and on whether Greece’s northern neighbor will be able to claim that they are the keepers of a Macedonian nationality and language, which historically have been core elements of FYROM’s irredentist agenda.
The government did everything in its power to limit attendance at the protest, including persuading Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece to come out against FYROM protests and labeling those would participate as fellow travelers of Greece’s neo-fascist Golden Dawn party, which may in the end have produced a boomerang
The event opened with a salutation from Metropolitan bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki, widely viewed as a nationalist firebrand, and retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Frangoulis Frangos, who has been touted as the prospective leader of a new right-wing nationalist party, which he denies but does not entirely rule out.
The demonstration was attended by New Democracy and Independent Greeks MPs representing electoral districts in northern Greece, and by Macedonia prefect Apostolos Tzitzikostas, who had challenged Kyriakos Mitsotakis for the New Democracy leadership.
Hundreds of buses from all over Greece descended on the northern capital, with regional clergy having been urged by Anthimos to attend the protest, despite the urgings of Ieronymos, who has no direct authority on local bishoprics around the country.
‘’Demonstrate my Greek Macedonian brothers, on land and sea, toward persons known and unknown, on television and radio, to Europeans and Americans, to Russians and Asians, on the open seas and on the vast expanse of the sky, the great truth, the witness of history, the song of our slain heroes, the psalms of the monasteries, the most true message of history – that Macedonia was and remains the fatherland and cradle of Greeks, and that Macedonia means Greece and Greece means Macedonia,’’ Anthimos declared.
The resolution of the demonstration
Organisers produced a resolution which demanded that the government ‘’preclude any prospect of accepting of the, from most ancient times, name Macedonia and its derivatives’’, and that was approved at the start of the protest.