Austerity Suicide: Pensioner's Death Sparks Clashes in Athens
Violent protests have erupted in Athens following the public suicide of a 77-year-old retired man. A note he left behind accused the Greek government of impoverishing him with its debt crisis austerity measures, a message that resonated with demonstrators. Many are blaming the state for his death.
The public suicide of an indebted pensioner in Athens on Wednesday has touched a nerve in the Greek capital, sparking violent clashes with police.
The square where the incident occurred, just opposite the parliament building, has already been the site of frequent protests during Greece's debt crisis, and people gathered once again on Wednesday to mourn the unnamed pensioner's death. The death is the latest in a growing number of suicides in Greece, a country grappling with dramatic financial troubles that have led to high unemployment, lower wages and shrinking pension payments.
Some people posted notes to the tree under which he died, with messages like, "It was a murder, not a suicide," and "Austerity kills." Meanwhile, hundreds of others marched toward parliament chanting similar slogans.
"This suicide is political in nature and heavy in symbolism," Vassilis Papadopoulos, protest organizer and spokesman for the "I won't pay" group told the Associated Press. "It's not like a suicide at home."
An estimated 1,500 people attended the anti-austerity protests, and by nightfall they turned violent. Young people reportedly threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at riot police, who fired tear gas and flash grenades in response. No injuries were reported.
No relief is in sight for Greece, despite international financial aid. By the end of 2012, the country's economy is expected to contract by 4.5 percent and remain in a recession until the following year, according to the Bank of Greece's annual report, released last month. The country's economy already took a 7 percent hit in 2011.
-- kla, with wire reports
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