By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
ATHENS, Greece – On Wednesday, tens of thousands of protestors flooded the streets of Athens for a nationwide strike to challenge new government measures that are expected to cut wages, pensions and healthcare. The potential cuts in Greece aroused anger and fear of increased insolvency as the nation begins its third round of austerity measures in the past three years.
Similarly, Spain also experienced two days of violent protests due to cuts to public benefits and jobs. Workers across Greece and Spain have recently watched various jobs disappear and wages cut. Both countries continue to make budget cuts to pay debts created by overspending.
A gathering that started out as a peaceful protest to demand their governments to slow down budget cuts to avoid bankruptcy, quickly turned into a massive violent riot. Over 50,000 employees, such as hospital doctors, pensioners, teachers and shopkeepers, were among the demonstrators that participated in over 60 walkout rallies throughout Greece.
In an attempt to gain control, Athens police fired stun grenades at protestors who simultaneously hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks. Police fired back in an effort to scatter the angry crowds around the parliament building.
A worker, Maria Vasiliandi, who took part in the march said, “People were just protesting against the new austerity measures, and it suddenly started raining flash-bang grenades and Molotov cocktails, so we had to leave the square.”
Roman Gerodimos, senior lecturer at Bournemouth University in the U.K, states, “There’s a lot of frustration and a sense of public disappointment. People feel like there is no progress, that they’re sacrificing their welfare for nothing.” A physics researcher, Dimitris Palles, said, “I feel my country is on auction and we’re just an economic experiment.”
As a result of various budget cuts, chemists and pharmaceutical companies have stopped producing drugs to medical insurers because they claim they have not compensated by the state. Furthermore, Greece’s power company cut the electricity at a kidney hospital on the island of Aegina for a period of time while the patients were experiencing blood dialysis.
Anna Afanti, a teacher, removed a surgical mask she wore to protect herself from the tear gas to say, “They just want to impoverish us, to bring our salaries down to the level in India and swoop in and buy everything on the cheap. I should have left this country a long time ago. Now I’m stuck here.”
For further information, please see:
The Independent — Day of rage in Greece as more stringent cuts loom – 27 September 2012
USA Today — Protests against budget cuts in Spain, Greece rock world markets – 27 September 2012
NBC News — Rage against austerity: Protesters in gas masks, helmets clash with Greek police – 26 September 2012
The New York Times — Markets Falter in Europe Amid Protests on Austerity – 26 September 2012