Greeks protest again but this time it stays peaceful
Published 21/05/2010 | 06:02
Over 20,000 protesters marched through Athens in a challenge to Greece's harsh austerity measures yesterday, but this time the demonstrations ended peacefully.
They were taking part in their fourth general strike this year — and the first since three people died when a bank was torched.
Two separate rallies ended peacefully, but shopkeepers had taken extensive precautions in case the protests turned violent, like the one two weeks ago.
Store owners closed up and lowered protective shutters before the march got under way, and police deployed 1,700 officers and detained 36 people in an early show of force.
Demonstrators outside the parliament building banged pots and pans and shouted “Thieves, thieves!” but did not attempt to breach a cordon of riot police holding them back.
The strike closed schools, halted ferries and trains, and left hospitals running with only emergency staff. The Acropolis and other ancient sites in Athens were also shut.
Premier George Papandreou, visiting Lebanon, said he sympathised with many of the protesters.
“The Greek people are understandably voicing their views about the economic crisis, and it is painful,” Mr Papandreou said. “We understand this and I understand this myself. We also know that we must move ahead with these changes in order to make the country with a viable economy, a competitive economy.”
Public anger has grown at deep pension and salary cuts, as well as steep tax rises, imposed in an attempt to pull Greece out of an unprecedented debt crisis.
The measures were needed for Greece to receive a 110 billion euro three-year rescue loan package from other EU countries and the International Monetary Fund that staved off bankruptcy.
The country's debt crisis has sent shock waves through global markets.