Anti-austerity riots hit Athens

Anti-austerity riots hit Athens

A Greek anti-austerity rally has turned violent as a general strike halted flights, ferries and public transport. 

Protesters in Athens threw petrol bombs and flares at riot police. The violence broke out after peaceful marches involving around 12,000 people.

Another 6,000 protested in Thessaloniki, according to the police, a day before the measures were due to be approved by parliament. Unless bailout funds are unlocked, Greece will again struggle to meet an increase in debt repayments due this summer and face another bankruptcy.

Athens hopes that the new loan payment will be approved by a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on May 22.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he was optimistic of a positive outcome when eurozone finance ministers meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss the progress of Greece’s bailout. He needs the funds to repay €7.5 billion of debt maturing in July. Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have agreed that a deal was “feasible” by Monday, the government said. “I’m optimistic,” Tsipras told the media. “The messages I’m getting are that we will have a positive outcome on the 22nd.”

Police used tear gas on a small group of demonstrators that threw petrol bombs and fired flares in Athens.

Nearby off-duty police were part of the protest, blocking the entrance to a finance ministry building.

The new cuts will be imposed beyond the end of Greece’s third bailout next year, including reduced pension and tax hikes. The left-wing coalition government agreed to the cuts as part of a deal with international creditors to release funds from its bailout.

“No to the new looting of salaries and pensions,” the civil servants union ADEDY said.

A police union hung a huge banner off the side of the striking hill, Lycabettus, in the centre of Athens in German and Greek reading “How much is the life of a Greek police officer worth?”

Public hospitals were functioning with emergency staff only, while public transport was disrupted, leaving Athenian roads gridlocked. Intercity train services ceased and there was no subway to the airport. Courts, customs and municipal government offices were closed.

Air-traffic controllers held a four-hour stoppage in the middle of the day, leading to more than 150 flight disruptions. Ferries services were also scrapped.

The bill, to be approved this week, entails US$5.4 billion in cuts from 2018 to 2021, Greece’s state agency ANA reported.

Athenian riot police. Picture credit: Wikimedia

 

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