Protestors seeking a halt to stringent austerity measures adopted by Greece in an attempt to combat its debt problem raged through the streets of Athens on Wednesday, clashing with police and crippling the city as public and private employees went on strike.
Reuters reported that about 100,000 protestors thronged the streets of Greece’s capital city, with police firing tear gas and flash bombs in an attempt to halt the demonstrations against the nation’s parliament. The first nationwide strike this year saw public transportation, airlines, and schools shut down in a 24-hour strike.
Chants of "We are not paying" and "No sacrifice for plutocracy" rang through the streets as workers, students, and pensioners advanced on the capital. They protested austerity measures that included cuts in salaries and pensions and higher taxes that the Greek government enacted so that it could receive a bailout of 110 billion euros ($150 billion) from the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
While lenders approved an additional tranche of 15 billion euros, disposition of the funds requires even harsher measures that have caused renewed protests by citizens. Ilias Iliopoulos, general secretary of public sector union ADEDY, said in the report, “This strike kicks off a wave of protests this year with the participation of workers, pensioners and the unemployed. We are against these policies which are certainly leading to poverty and pushing the economy into a deep recession.”
While it is not expected that the demonstrations will change any of the policies that caused them, the depth of the austerity drive is certainly unpopular with Greeks. Costas Panagopoulos, head of ALCO pollsters, said that the government would not be able to change its course. “But most Greeks believe the burden is not equally shared and this is a problem” he added.
Resistance to the measures has come from private sector union GSEE and its public sector sister ADEDY; together these two unions represent half Greece’s labor force, approximately 2.5 million workers. The unions have vowed to fight, saying that austerity is killing the economy.