Wednesday 21 February 2018

Tear gas fired at Greek pensioners in anti-austerity rally

Pensioners chant slogans as they take part in an anti-austerity protest against pension cuts in Athens (AP)
Pensioners chant slogans as they take part in an anti-austerity protest against pension cuts in Athens (AP)

Greek police have fired tear gas at pensioners during an anti-austerity protest in Athens, as some of the elderly demonstrators tried to tip over a riot police bus blocking a road to the prime minister's office.

More than 1,000 people, some of them using canes, took part in the demo against more cuts to pensions. Dozens chanted "Shame on you, shame on you" as they tried to break through a police cordon.

Others were trying to push over the bus when officers fired tear gas at them. Protesters ran, with one gray-haired man falling to his knees and coughing and several others appearing to be in distress.

No arrests or injuries were reported.

Greece's left-wing government has imposed new cuts on pensions this year as part of its bailout commitments to international lenders, with the International Monetary Fund pressing for tougher measures.

The latest round of cuts follow six years of bailout-related austerity measures, while nearly a quarter of Greeks remain unemployed and no longer eligible for state benefits.

"This is a fight for our life. The country has been driven to desperation," pension protest organiser Dimos Koumbouris said.

"They have torn our income to shreds - taking money that people earned with hard work. We have to protest today and keep protesting. There's no other option."

Years of cuts have pushed nearly half of pensioners' monthly income below the official poverty line, according to a survey published last week by the National Pension Network, an organisation that represents Greece's main retiree associations.

And 52% of Greek households rely on pensions directly or indirectly to meet monthly expenses, the survey found.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's left-wing government is facing mounting public discontent as it braces for a new round of unpopular measures in the winter - including loosening employment rights and mortgage protections.

An opinion poll published on Sunday found 85% of Greeks believe the country is heading in the wrong direction, with 51% backing an early general election. A total of 42% believe conservative opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is most suited to be prime minister, compared with 23% backing Mr Tsipras.


Press Association

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