JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: And I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)
KAKISSIS: The crowd walked slowly and chanted mechanically as if they knew the script by heart. Don't be afraid, a man shouted through a megaphone, we will defeat them. But for veteran protesters like Vangelis Stephanou, it all felt like a rote exercise.
VANGELIS STEPHANOU: It's been like a parade, more or less, in the last few weeks. Things are more or less expected. You go in, and at some point, some of the unions go out. And then the police come, and the whole thing is dispersed in the end of the day. That's that.
KAKISSIS: Stephanou has been to hundreds of anti-austerity protests since 2010, some of them violent. Today's was small and quiet, only about 5,000 people showed up, a fraction of the usual size.
And more than two years of demonstrations haven't changed the course of austerity, says protester Natalia Klossa. Instead, she says, the painful spending cuts just keep coming, deepening the recession and driving up the unemployment rate to more than 25 percent.
NATALIA KLOSSA: (Foreign language spoken)
KAKISSIS: I'm beginning to think that blood needs to be spilled for anything to actually change, she says. I don't want that to happen. But the problems we face are so big that we can't keep tackling them with the same old methods. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.