A crowd of at least 15,000 Greek-Americans, according to the latest estimates provided by the New York Police Department, congregated outside the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City on Sunday to participate in a rally opposing any compromise regarding the usage of the name “Macedonia” by Greece’s northern neighbor.
Organized by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, the Hellenic American Congress, the Pan-Macedonian Association of the United States (which also played a role in organizing the recent massive rallies that were held in Athens and Thessaloniki) and other organizations, it was the first such rally to be organized in the United States this year, following rallies held in London, Frankfurt, Zurich, Stuttgart, Melbourne, and other cities around the world with significant Greek communities.
The event was also endorsed by the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), while participants traveled to New York City from as far as Boston, Washington DC, Florida, and Houston.
Speakers at the event included United States Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a longtime member of the “Greek-American caucus” in Congress, the embattled Archbishop Demetrios (facing a corruption scandal that has rocked the North American Archdiocese), the president of the Hellenic American Congress and the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York Petros Galatoulas, the president of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Chicago Kostas Haniotakis, the president of the Pan-Macedonian Federation of the United States Stelios Kirimlis, as well as speakers from Greece, including the mayor of the Amarousion suburb of Athens Giorgos Patoulis, who is also the president of the Central Union of Greek Municipalities and the Medical Association of Athens.
Local politicians and dignitaries also spoke, including New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, New York State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, New York State Assemblywoman and recent New York City mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis, and Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis.
Stealing the spotlight, however, was speaker Vaggelis Grammatikakis, who traveled from the island of Crete and who had previously spoken at the rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki. Dressed in traditional Cretan garb, Grammatikakis moved the crowd with his patriotic message and with the rhyming Cretan “mandinada” (folk poetry) which he delivered on the importance of freedom:
If you love freedom
Don’t entrust it to strangers
Win it alone
Otherwise you do not deserve it
Grammatikakis further stated that “[t]oday Macedonia is being endangered by Greeks,” and added a historical reference.
“The first Filiki Etaireia was created by Greeks of the diaspora,” he said, referring to the “Society of Friends” which was comprised of wealthy diaspora Greeks who organized the Greek resistance against the Ottoman Turks. “The second Greek Filiki Etaireia will again be created by Greeks of the diaspora.”
While the New York City rally undoubtedly represents a positive initiative on the part of the Greek-American community, it does bear noting that the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, organizer of the annual Greek Independence Day Parade in New York City, honored gun-toting oligarch Ivan Savvidis, said to be close to the SYRIZA-led government, as grand marshal at last year’s parade.
The rally in New York City was organized on the same day as a similar rally on the Macedonia naming issue took place in the Greek provincial city of Pyrgos.
Video of the New York City rally:
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