May 25, 2013
Greece: Man dies during police, protesters clashes
Greek police have confirmed that a man has died during today's anti-austerity protests in which police fired teargas to disperse anti-austerity protesters hurling stones and petrol bombs on the day of a general strike that brought much of the near-bankrupt country to a standstill.
Greece's police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christos Manourassays the dead man's body has been taken to Athens' biggest public hospital, Evangelismos. An autopsy will take place shortly.
"There is some speculation that he had a fainting fit and other suggestions that he either suffered a cardiac arrest or stroke," Manouras told reporters.
Manouras added that "We will only know once the coroner has conducted an autopsy, but what I can say is that there were no police or skirmishes at the spot at which he died. In other words, the death was not provoked by violence."
News of the death has cast a dark cloud over Greece. This is the fifth person to die during Athens protests since 2010 following the man who died of a heart attack a year ago, and the three people who died in May 2010 when a bank building caught fire.
It was the second time in three weeks that Greek workers had walked off the job, with Thursday's strike aimed at showing EU leaders meeting in Brussels that new wage and pension cuts will only worsen their plight after five years of recession.
More than 30,000 protesters gathered in central Athens as most business and public sector activity ground to a halt at the start of the 24-hour strike called by the country's two biggest labor unions, ADEDY and GSEE.
Tensions mounted when a small group of protesters began throwing pieces of marble, bottles and petrol bombs at police barricading part of the square in front of parliament, prompting riot police to fire several rounds of teargas to disperse them.
"Enough is enough. They've dug our graves, shoved us in and we are waiting for the priest to read the last words," said Konstantinos Balomenos, a 58-year-old worker at a water utility whose wage has been halved to 900 euros and who has two unemployed sons.
Some protesters were carrying Greek, Spanish and Portuguese flags and shouted: "EU, IMF out".
Greece is stuck in its worst downturn since World War Two and must make at least 11.5 billion euros of cuts to satisfy the "troika" of the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF, and secure the next tranche of a 130-billion-euro bailout.
"Agreeing to catastrophic measures means driving society to despair and the consequences as well as the protests will then be indefinite," said Yannis Panagopoulos, head of the GSEE private sector union, one of two major unions that represent about 2 million people, or half of Greece's workforce.