News / Europe

    Greek Police Clash With Demonstrators Against Austerity Measures

    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

    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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora