Greeks rally against austerity, mark 40 years since student revolt

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 17, 2013 11:36 AM
Greeks rally against austerity, mark 40 years since student revolt

By Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Thousands of Greeks protesting against austerity marched through the streets of Athens on Sunday to mark the 40th anniversary of a bloody student uprising against the then-ruling military junta.

The annual march, a focal point for anti-government protesters, comes as Greece's European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders begin a new round of talks in Athens to decide whether to disburse more money under its bailout.

In Athens, more than 16,000 people rallied peacefully before parliament in the central Syntagma square, waving flags and banners reading "IMF, EU out!" A rally also took place in the second-biggest city of Thessaloniki.

"People, don't bow your heads," the crowd shouted as a police helicopter clattered overhead. About 7,000 police officers were deployed to the streets and scores stood guard on the square, the scene of violent clashes in the past.

Protesters chanted "Never again Fascism!" before moving some 3km to the embassy of the United States, which many believe backed the colonels in taking power and ruling Greece in 1967-74.

"People here are suffering - we can't go any lower, we're at our limits and the kids have no future so they're leaving," 48-year-old biologist Athena Pantra said from the rally.

"The troika should leave, not them," she said, referring to the trio of lenders who have kept Greece on a multi billion-euro lifeline since the crisis broke out nearly four years ago.

While the protests passed off mostly without incident, police fired teargas to disperse about 200 demonstrators who hurled rocks near the offices of the far-right Golden Dawn party in the western port city of Patras, police said. TV footage showed petrol bombs exploding in the street.

Golden Dawn has been subject to a government crackdown after the killing in September of an anti-fascism rapper by one of its supporters, which triggered protests across a country already riven by its economic crisis.

Greece's bailout has come at a price of tax rises and cuts to wages and pensions and the crisis, the country's worst during peacetime, has forced thousands of business to shut, pushed up unemployment and eroded living standards.

Nearly six in 10 young Greeks are without work, homelessness is on the rise and many have seen their incomes and wages shrink to levels not seen in decades.

"We will continue the struggle for bread, education, freedom," said Independent Greeks lawmaker Notis Marias, echoing a popular slogan of the revolt.

"In order to abolish the bailout, kick out the troika from our country and regain Greece."

(Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Alison Williams)