Proposed radical tax rises even for the poorest
Greek police and anti-austerity protesters faced off in a tense duel on Tuesday that quickly escalated into full blown clashes as angry workers were teargassed seeking to pierce unprecedented defences.
Radicals among some 10,000 protesters sought to break through a 4,000-man ring of steel drawn around Parliament on the first of a two-day protest at radical tax rises even for the poorest.
The tactics were clear from the outset — police having learnt from December 2008 riots over the cop killing of a teenager and huge protests in May last year, around the time of Greece's first bailout, that left three dead in a firebombed Athens bank.
“They attacked us on June 15, but we fought back and we will do the same again,” said , a student of Spanish origin in the ‘indignants' camp that has taken over Athens' central square for the last seven weeks nearly. “IMF Out — Cancel Debt Now,” read one banner among the crowd. “Banker and Boss We'll Fight You in the Factories — We'll Fight You in Syntagma Square,” read another.
“Even the Turks never imposed this volume of taxes on us,” said 70-year-old ex-sailor Panayotis Bakossis, cheerleading the protest. “Tonight will not be a good time to be in Syntagma,” added barmaid Maria in a side-street cafe. She said she was already “afraid to walk home” after closing time in recent weeks, with the mood turning ever darker. Nearby stores, while open, were largely deserted with iron grills drawn down over windows in anticipation of damage.
‘Professional' protesters came equipped with gas masks draped around their necks while youths touted colourful paper parasols for five euros to the large number of women among the group.
That is the price of a basic lunch in cheaper parts of the Greek capital — but also a princely sum for some among the Syntagma ‘indignants.'
Awaiting the resumption late-afternoon of a parliamentary debate ahead of the first vote on the disputed austerity laws on Wednesday, unions served notice of their opposition to plans to sell the state's holding in the main electricity provider.