TIME photo essay

Panic on the Streets of Athens

Greek photographer Angelos Tzortzinis documents the chaos and turmoil on the streets of Athens as protests against deeply unpopular austerity measures continue

In the spirit of the Indignados of Spain, tents began to appear in Syntagma Square in the center of Athens. This was the first time I began photographing the protests. Then, more tents appeared, a few tables and a microphone for announcements. I was constantly moving among them, taking pictures, trying to figure out their purpose. People began to gather in front of the Parliament, shouting slogans.

Then there was tear gas. People began running in all directions. I realized something was different this time. As a Greek, I felt the sadness and witnessed the pessimism in the faces of people passing by—youths talking constantly about a future that cannot be predicted. They kept coming, in greater numbers and with a stronger will to express themselves during this challenging time in our country.

The historical importance of these days of protest has become clear to me. Citizens from all walks of life were on the streets, demanding their rights to a better living and expressing their disappointment—not only against the present government, but against the entire system that’s developed over the years. Being there seemed the most natural decision, not only in trying to capture these feelings, but also letting them seep inside me in some way.

Angelos Tzortzinis is a freelance photographer based in Athens. In May 2010, his photographs of riots in Greece’s capital were published in TIME.

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