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Riots Erupt Over Greece’s Latest Round of Austerity Measures

October 19, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: A huge protest in Athens, Greece 100,000 strong erupted into rioting that lasted for hours today. The trouble broke out during a general strike aimed at new austerity measures.

We have a report from Martin Geissler of Independent Television News.

MARTIN GEISSLER: With the Greek government desperate to project an image of stability to the world, this was Athens today — running battles, rocks and tear gas, hundreds, perhaps thousands of rioters fighting with police, public anger clashing with Europe’s financial demands.

The bailout money Greece needs to survive comes at a punishing cost — tax hikes, wage cuts, tens of thousands of redundancies. The people have reached the breaking point. Inside the Greek Parliament, M.P.s were debating another package of cuts. Outside, in the choking tear gas, the message was clear: The country has been squeezed to the point of suffocation.

This began as a peaceful protest, tens of thousands converging on Athens’ Syntagma Square to have their voices heard. They believe their Parliament is the cause of this crisis, not the solution, all classes, all ages represented.

Pensioner Angelic Barkitari (ph) came with three generations of her family. She has four children and a husband all out of work. In all her years, she’s never seen her country in this state.

WOMAN (through translator): It’s awful. These politicians have stripped the whole of Greece, and if we don’t get rid of them, they will keep doing it.

MARTIN GEISSLER: The Greek government may dismiss today’s violence as the actions of a minority, but they can’t ignore the broader message. The people here are seething. Half the country was on strike today. For the youth, it’s not just about jobs and money. They say they’re being robbed of their ambitions and their dignity.

MAN: We work like slaves, as slaves. There’s no future here.

WOMAN: This is really bad. This is really difficult for a young person to not have dreams, you know?

MARTIN GEISSLER: This evening, the tear gas and the crowds are dispersing, but the anger isn’t going away, and tomorrow, with M.P.s expected to pass another package of cuts, another day of action is planned. This city is bracing itself once again.