Right at the moment when massive salary and pensions cuts were being discussed between the Greek government and international lenders, protests begin in central Athens over the issue. The protests are part of the nationwide strike being called by the trade unions in Greece.
The protest is first to have taken place after swearing in of the new coalition government headed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in June this year.
Samaras is trying his best to arrive at a deal on austerity package of 11.5 billion or 15 billion Euros with the lenders trio of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank, the European Commission. If the negotiation goes through well with the lenders, it may help Greece in getting a loan of 32 billion or 40.7 billion Euros for keeping the country solvent.
Protests were peaceful by and large including people from diverse set of professions including civil servants, pharmacists, professor, teacher, doctor, bank employees etc. walking towards the center of Athens with their placards and slogan cries.
Things started to grow out of control and turn violent around 1 p.m. when some people with faces covered in black masks threw Molotov cocktails at the policemen present on the Vassilis Sofias street. This street is wide and has the parliament building on the other side making it a critical location in the country to be under control. At the same time fire also sparked on the street giving rise to black smoke.
After the crowd entered Syntagma Square, people dressed in similar attire those involved in violence at the Vassilis Sofias street and put a part of the tent in the square on fire. Baton holding policemen then approached to bring the situation under control and resorted to tear gas for scattering the crowd. Tear gas use was however limited by the police because of the directive to keep a tab on its use after it was put to excessive use in previous protests.
The protests were used by public to register their disappointed over the austerity adoption by countries in south Europe. On Monday people in Spain have surrounded parliament against the introduction of austerity measures by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Portugal also witnessed similar public outrage last week against the increase in social security contributions by the government.
In Greece the situation grew beyond limits as a wide section of the population is not in favor of the austerity measures. You can easily hear people talk out on the misery forced on people by the third round of austerity adoption ever since it was first adopted after the unfurling of European Debt Crisis.
Several government services stood still on the day of protest around the central Athens area. Transport system was severely affected by the protest but the subway wasn’t affected much as protestors used it to reach and exit the central Athens area (Syntagma Square and Parliament building) before and after the protest.
Flights in the main airport Athens was also expected to suffer from delay as Air Traffic Controllers also vouched for participating in the protest during 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time. Greek media also predicted the protests to include as many as 1 million people on reports of people working in industries planning to join the protest.
Some analysts keeping a close watch on the developments in Greece have also pointed at the possibility of a civil unrest citing reason of tension building between the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party that won 18 seat in recently concluded elections over the anti-immigration policy with other groups.
Policemen were deployed in thousands around the parliament and central Athens area with riot control police cordoning the parliament building with the intention of not letting the violent protesters enter the Parliament.
Source: The New York Times
Photos: Blogical comment, Democracy and Society, NBC News