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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid