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Protests mark beginning of austerity measures in Greece as unemployment surges to 24.4 pct

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 9th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Greece is roiling under a depressed economy that finds almost one in four people there out of work. The $14.4 billion austerity package for 2013-14, that has been demanded by the European Union in order to prevent eurozone countries from defaulting on loans, has put many European citizens under great personal and financial strain, resulting in demonstrations.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A peaceful protest in the Greek capital of Athens has seen demonstrators carrying black flags, chanting, "Thieves, thieves." "Shame, you're delivering the final blow to the security forces," and "Come out and see how low you have brought us," protestors chanted as they marched to the Finance Ministry in central Athens.

The chief difference this time is instead of the expected under-employed youth protesting -- who comprise the majority of Greek's jobless -- many firefighters, police and coast guard personnel are now included in the throng.

A mock triple gallows on an open-top van, with a sign reading "Troika" - a reference to the austerity inspectors from the European Union, an officer from each of the services - police, coast guard, and firefighters - stood with his head in a noose.

Greece, therefore is preparing for the worst this coming weekend, with some 3,500 police set to be deployed in the northern city of Thessaloniki. Unions are planning demonstrations against the new round of austerity, where pensions and some state salaries will be pared down even further.

The police officers themselves will be affected by the new measures. The officers too are planning their own demonstration in Thessaloniki.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is to meet with EU Council President Herman van Rompuy in Athens, while debt inspectors are due for a fresh assessment this weekend.

Official figures showed Greece's unemployment rate growing to 24.4 percent in June, including more than 1.2 million people out of work.

Without the austerity measures, Greece will lose access to the vital bailout loans protecting the nation from bankruptcy. After more than two years of harsh cutbacks, the new measures planned by Greece's conservative-led governing coalition have sparked deep anger.

"If you think a country's security can be protected by beggars and people in rags, you are making a big mistake," Dimitris Saitakis of the coast guard officers association declared. "Let those who stay behind their desks join us on a night patrol during a storm and chase illegal immigrants and criminals."

Protesting police officers had earlier defied colleagues in the riot police and blocked the entrance of one of their own Athens facilities for about four hours.

About 50 officers prevented buses used to carry riot police from leaving the site. The buses are scheduled to go to the northern city of Thessaloniki, where weekend anti-austerity demonstrations are planned.

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