Large protest against Greek pension reform ends in violence

ATHENS, Greece -- Tens of thousands joined anti-government protests in Athens on Thursday as Greece was crippled by a general strike against a bailout-related overhaul of the country's ailing pension system.

See Full Article

Police said some 40,000 people joined the demonstrations, which were mostly peaceful before sporadic clashes between anarchist protesters and police outside Parliament and in other parts of the city centre.

Police used tear gas and stun grenades against the dozens of hooded anarchists. Street vendors, tourists, and onlookers ran to safety as the violence broke out, while a journalist was attacked by rioters and taken to hospital but was not in serious condition, police said.

Protests were also held in at least a dozen other Greek cities and towns, where several rallies were joined by protesting farmers driving their tractors.

Unions are angry at pension reforms that are part of Greece's third international bailout. The government, which is led by the left-wing Syriza, is trying to overhaul the pension system by increasing social security contributions to avoid pension cuts, but critics say the reforms will lead many to pay up to three quarters of their income in pension contributions and taxes.

Opposition to the reform has been widespread, uniting a disparate group of professions, including farmers, artists, taxi drivers, lawyers, doctors, vets, engineers and seamen.

Thursday's general strike is the most significant the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, which is in coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks, has faced since coming to power a little more than a year ago.

The disruption was wide-ranging. Schools and many private businesses were closed while transport, including flights and ferries, faced delays and cancellation. The strike also stopped the flow of thousands of migrants and refugees travelling from the Greek islands where they make landfall.

State-run hospitals were functioning on emergency staff, while farmers maintained their blockades of highways that have forced motorists into lengthy detours.

The strike comes as international bailout inspectors met Labor Minister George Katrougalos to discuss the pension reforms. The central Athens hotel where the inspectors were staying was heavily guarded by police.

The Greek government has to meet a series of conditions to get money from its third international bailout, which is worth around 80 billion euros ($89 billion). Having cleared the first set of conditions, it is now discussing the next batch of reforms required.

Once cleared, it will be due further funds from the bailout as well as a promise to discuss the size of Greece's debt burden, which despite years of austerity still stands at a staggering 175 per cent of the country's annual GDP.

The pension reform is difficult for Syriza, which, while still in opposition, had led protests against pension reforms. However Tsipras was forced to ditch his earlier stance when faced with the stark choice of signing up to a third bailout or the country having to leave the euro currency.

Syriza's difficulties with the pension reform plan were evident in the party's statement that it was backing Thursday's strike.

Athens pensioner Yannis Kouvalakis said Tsipras' government had "fooled" Greeks by promising to reverse austerity cuts.

"Because they are from the left, what happened? Was the situation saved?" he said. "Things got worse."


Latest Canada & World News

  • Parkland teens keep gun-control grown-ups at arm's length

    World News CTV News
    Before the shooting had even stopped, teenagers hiding at their Florida high school were talking about gun control. Within days, they had launched a crusade against gun violence -- one that will result in a nationwide series of protests Saturday. Source
  • Koreas to hold high-level talks next week to set up summit

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- The rival Koreas have agreed to hold high-level talks next week to prepare for an April summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Source
  • Trump order would ban most transgender troops from serving

    World News CTV News
    PALM BEACH, Fla. -- U.S. President Donald Trump released an order Friday night banning most transgender troops from serving in the military except under "limited circumstances," following up on his calls last year to ban transgender individuals from serving. Source
  • FBI seeks motive for fiery van crash at California air base

    World News CTV News
    ROSEVILLE, Calif. -- A 51-year-old man drove a flaming minivan loaded with propane tanks and gasoline cans through the main gate of a major Northern California Air Force base, authorities said Friday, but said the driver had no known links to terrorism. Source
  • Teen injured in Maryland school shooting dies

    World News CBC News
    A 16-year-old girl critically shot on Tuesday by a fellow student at a Maryland high school has died, authorities said. The girl, Jaelynn Willey, died late Thursday surrounded by her family, the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office said in a statement on Friday. Source
  • Calgary has run out of room to store all that snow

    Canada News CBC News
    After one of the snowiest winters Calgary in recent years, its finally happened. The city has literally run out of places to put the snow. The director of Calgary Roads, Troy McLeod, said there's pretty much no room left at the city's three snow dumps. Source
  • Dozens line up to adopt animals abandoned at Edmonton pet store

    Canada News CBC News
    Animal lovers in Edmonton lined up for hours Friday at the Edmonton Humane Society for a chance to adopt a pet from nearly 500 cats, dogs, fish, reptiles and even spiders. "We're a family that loves dogs so we thought we'd help them out," said John Grady, who with his son Jackson met the dog that will become the latest member of their family. Source
  • McGill bans bottled water from vending machines on campus

    Canada News CTV News
    Students at McGill University soon won’t be able to buy bottled water from vending machines as the university rolls out a campus-wide ban. The step, which falls in line with World Water Day, will eliminate the sale of about 85,000 water bottles each year. Source
  • No charges after Ohio deputy shoots news photographer, mistaking camera for gun

    World News CTV News
    SPRINGFIELD, Ohio -- Investigators say no charges will be filed against an Ohio sheriff's deputy who shot a news photographer setting up to photograph a traffic stop. Clark County Deputy Jacob Shaw said he mistook photographer Andrew Grimm's camera for a gun when he shot him twice, once in the side and once in the shoulder, last year in New Carlisle, about 60 miles (97 kilometres) west of Columbus. Source
  • Alberta premier calls B.C. complaints about high gas prices environmental hypocrisy

    Canada News CBC News
    Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says if British Columbia wants to keep gasoline prices low it should stop opposing the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline expansion. B.C. Premier John Horgan said Thursday he would like to see the federal government step in to deal with high gas prices. Source