Photo Credit Alexander Besant/Greek Reporter
The first day of a two-day general strike sees thousands of protesters gathering in the center of Athens, mostly workers who happily took time off from their jobs to protest against a new round of austerity reforms which must pass in two parliamentary votes on Wednesday and Thursday. The planned measures are a means to stave off a possible default later next month.
More than 5,000 police officers were posted around the city center to control approximately 20, 000 protesters who staged different demonstrations. However, violent clashes broke out between riot police, resulting in huge amounts of tear gas being used to keep the angry mob at bay. Trash bins were set on fire and paving stones in the streets were ripped up by hooded youths leaving the riot police no choice but to resort to the use of stun grenades.
Apart from work stoppages from people of all walks of life, including doctors, air traffic controllers, actors and ambulance drivers, hundreds of flights were canceled or rescheduled and citizens and tourists were stranded everywhere due to strikes by public transport workers.
Spyros Linardopoulos, a protester from PAME union who was not shocked by the amount of supporters for the strike, stated, “The situation that the workers are undergoing is tragic and we are near poverty levels,” “The government has declared war and to this war, we will answer back with war.”
But what do Greeks really want? Watch the video below with one of the members of the 300 hundred Greeks, the group who occupied Syntagma square more than 30 days ago and continue to be there 24/7. Thomas Slamaris explains what the protesters of his group are asking for.
Many Greeks are insisting that they shouldn’t be forced to pay back debts that they believe politicians are responsible for. They are already struggling with previous spending cuts and tax hikes which has sent Greek unemployment soaring. With the future of their country hanging in the balance and the threat of a default, Wednesday’s second-day of the general strike could see further battles between the protesters and their Greek political leaders.
In the northern city of Thessaloniki, 7,000 protesters managed to demonstrate without incident.