News / Europe

Greek Police Clash With Demonstrators Against Austerity Measures

Police Clash with Thousands of Protesters in Greecei
|| 0:00:00
X
September 26, 2012 10:34 PM
Tens of thousands of Greeks took to the streets Wednesday to protest fresh austerity measures, and clashes erupted between police and some demonstrators. As Selah Hennessy reports, the country was also brought to a virtual halt as workers carried out a general strike.
Selah Hennessy
— Clashes erupted between police and protesters in Greece on Wednesday, as citizens took to the streets to demonstrate against fresh austerity measures. The country also was brought to a virtual halt by a general strike.

It was planned as a peaceful protest, but within hours tension had risen on the streets of Athens. In dramatic scenes near parliament, police fired tear gas at hooded demonstrators, who were throwing stones and petrol bombs.  

About 50,000 people took to the streets, banging drums and shouting slogans against austerity measures they say are bringing Greek people to their knees.
It is the first major public demonstration since a new coalition government, led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, was elected three months ago on a pro-euro, pro-bailout platform. Demonstrators wanted to show the new government they have had enough of the cuts.

Watch related video of Greece strike
Related video of Greece strikei
|| 0:00:00
X
September 26, 2012 3:26 PM
Related video of Greece strike

Alexis Tsipras is leader of the opposition Leftist party Syriza. He said that if the coalition government of Samaras cannot protect the rights of Greek society, and accepts and co-signs the "barbaric measures" that are leading to a "Greek holocaust," then it is up to the "voice of the Greek people."

The street protest was coupled with a general strike called by the two biggest unions, which represent about half the work force. A three-hour walkout by air traffic controllers disrupted flights around the country. Shop keepers pulled down their shutters and locked up for the afternoon, and museums and monuments closed their doors.

King’s College London lecturer Ramon Pacheco Pardo is an expert on Greece. He said, “The strike is probably one of the most important ones we have had since the beginning of the crisis, since it is attempting to bring together all the different groups that are against the government cuts and actually want a new debate on whether Greece, first of all, should keep the euro, but also whether the cuts are the best way forward in the country.”

Strikers are rallying against a new agreement being drafted by the Greek government that would wipe $15 billion from spending, mostly by cutting wages, pensions and benefits.

But while the Greek government is hemmed in by public unrest on one side, on the other, international lenders that have been propping up the Greek economy since 2010, are also putting on pressure.  The new cuts are needed to persuade the lenders to release $40 billion in financial aid that Greece needs to avoid defaulting on its debt.

London School of Economics lecturer Spyros Economides said it is the first real test to see if Samaras can push ahead with austerity in the face of widespread discontent.

“What happens is that if the pressure becomes immense, then there would be a call for new elections. And then those elections could potentially lead to a new government, perhaps one led by the current major opposition party, who have said quite categorically that if we come to power, we will leave the Eurozone and we will return to the [Greek] drachma, which in my opinion is the biggest possible catastrophe for Greece right now,” said Economides.

The government has a difficult path to navigate, he said, between its citizens and its lenders.  

“In the last two years we have seen in Greece that there have been moments in which these very peaceful and legitimate democratic strike actions have been hijacked by a small group of people and become very violent, and that is really disturbing," said Economides. "Then I think you will see a different kind of reaction, because then the uncertainty becomes one of not only what do these strikes mean, but could they spill over into a broader civil unrest, which could destroy the whole possibility of Greece coming out of this in a few years’ time as a normal European state.”

And that could be a worry, he said, with Wednesday’s strike only the first of many likely to take place in the coming months.

Photogallery of strikes in Greece
  • A demonstrator throws a molotov cocktail to riot police officers near Syntagma square during a 24-hour labor strike in Athens, Sept. 26, 2012.
  • Supporters of the Greek Communist party march by the parliament during the strike in Athens Sept. 26, 2012. Flights and trains were suspended, shops pulled down their shutters and hospitals worked on emergency staff.
  • A fire bomb explodes among riot police during clashes in Athens, Sept. 26, 2012.
  • A riot policeman is engulfed by flames after a protester threw petrol bombs in Athens' Syntagma square, Sept. 26, 2012.
  • Riot police officers try to arrest a masked demonstrator during clashes in Athens, Sept. 26, 2012.
  • A man stands inside the empty Eleftherios Venizelos airport during the 24-hour labor strike in Athens Sept. 26, 2012.
  • Graffiti in Athens, Sept. 25, 2012.

You May Like

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid