General strike rocks Athens

A general strike in Athens turned violent Sept. 26 as a demonstration of some 50,000 outside of Parliament ended with black-clad youth throwing rocks and petrol bombs at riot police guarding the building, who responded with tear-gas. Police charged the protesters, chasing them through Syntagma Square in front of the parliament building as helicopters swooped in overhead. The one-day strike is the first union–led action since a conservative government came to power in June. Rail services and most public transportation have been halted by the action, which was called by the two biggest union federations,  the General Confederation of Greek workers (GSEE) and the Union of Civil Servants (ADEDY), and also supported by the Greek Communist Party (KKE). Protesters oppose planned spending cuts of $15 billion, which are being mandated by the “troika” of Greece’s foreign lenders—the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. Protesters marching on parliament chanted “We won’t submit to the troika ” and “EU, IMF Out!” KKE militants occupied the Parthenon, hanging huge banners from its walls reading “PEOPLES OF EUROPE RISE UP.” (EkathimeriniSky News, The Guardian, BBC News, Sept. 26; EurActiv, Sept. 24)

The Greek radical right continues to make its own play to exploit the crisis. The Athens prosecutor has charged a number of MPs with the Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party with attacks on migrant street vendors, and requested that parliament lift their immunity from prosecution. Following a request from the Supreme Court, parliament has already waived the immunity of Golden Dawn MP Constantine Barmparousi, implicated in attacks in Missolonghi. The prosecutor is now calling for lifting the immunity of two other Golden Dawn MPs allegedly involved in street vendor attacks in Rafina.

Parliament’s ethics committee last week condemned acts of violence committed by Golden Dawn deputies. The censure was approved by deputies from New Democracy, PASOK and the Independent Greeks party. Lawmakers from the KKE, Syriza and Democratic Left all cast an empty ballot complaining that the committee’s wording was too “mild.” (Digital Journal, Sept. 15; Ekathimerini, Sept. 13)

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