I was in Athens to report on the referendum. It was extraordinary.
I wrote this on Saturday July 4th, 2015. The evening before the referendum. A version also appears at i24news.tv
It's Saturday evening, the night before the historic referendum taking place in Greece. Tomorrow the Greek people will decide whether to look at the possibility of more negotiations with creditors and more imposed austerity measures, or not.
I'm sitting on the roof of our hotel with the Acropolis directly in front of me in the distance. Almost immediately upon arrival I could feel the tension and excitement and nervousness that have been filling this place and every conversation with a cab driver or contact has heightened those feelings.
We traveled through the city, wound our way through the 25,000 person crowd at the "Vote No" demonstration in Syntagma Square and spoke to passersby on the street as we reported on the reality that we found on the ground.
We spoke to a few people who were unsure of what they would decide when the time came to vote. We also spoke with a couple of Yes voters here and there, but the vast majority of people we've encountered are voting No. For most of them it is clear as day.
There is lot of fear about what will happen (the number one reason we've heard from Yes voters is fear of what a No vote means) and most people don’t seem to have any illusions about the years to come: They'll be hard years no matter what happens tomorrow.
For many though, the No vote seems to be the answer to that foreseen hardship. Fear is not the root of that decision in most cases. Most of the people we talked to are angry and tired of the situation and, given that the coming years will be hard either way, they want hard and new rather than hard and more of the same. They're angry at the country's lenders for pushing austerity measures on them and they are tired of feeling that they are 2nd class EU citizens. They are angry at their media for creating a sense of fear of what a No vote means in the lead up to the referendum and they are tired of feeling like their kids will have it worse than they've had it. They are angry and tired of living with the mistakes of previous governments.
A waiter we spoke with told us, "I will vote No. Why? Because I vote for my children." He explained that his vote was not for an easy tomorrow - that seems impossible to him at this point - but for a better situation for the next generation.
The most prevalent sentiment, though, has been the feeling that voting No will allow the Greek people to forge their own path. Most No voters we spoke to are sure that the best path remains inside the EU and Euro zone, but with a social will and economic policies of their own. Over and over again we have heard from the people we've spoken with that a No vote is a vote to decide what to do next instead of being told by creditors. So many of the people I spoke with were clear that their No is a vote for democratic decision making on a national level, which we've been told again and again has been absent for too long in this ancient democracy.
*The No's won with just over 61% of the vote.