Greece was paralyzed by multiple protests against austerity and pension reforms demanded by international creditors on Thursday.
Protesters in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion and in other cities throughout the country demonstrated against the proposed pension reform, responding to calls from major labor and civil servants unions and scientific bodies. Farmers have been also blocking national roads for the past 15 days.
More than 40,000 people participated in Athens, police said. Tear gas was thrown to hooded anarchists and protesters in sporadic clashes in front of parliament and in other central parts of the city.
Two people were arrested by police and a journalist was reportedly attacked by a hooded group at a central street junction. He was taken to hospital.
This has been the biggest rally since far-left Syriza and national-populist Anel formed a coalition government in September 2015.
The protesters voiced their anger against continuous reforms, and more specifically the most recent pension reforms, imposed by the country’s creditors as part of the last bailout deal struck in July on top of years of austerity.
President of the main labor union, Yiannis Panagopoulos, described the new pension reform as "a guillotine for social security entitlements" during the rally.
Erato Tsouka, a 28-year-old saleswoman, said the reforms would be a failure.
“We need to build our economy and boost employment. If this doesn’t happen, no pension reform will make the system sustainable,” she said. “No politician seems to have a real alternative”.
“They are preparing to destroy every trace of social security and protection of the Greek people,” said 30-year-old unemployed Elsa Papaikonomou, in front of the parliament. “They have told us so many lies and this government is the worst. I want them all to leave.”
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s administration appears on the defensive as those who joined him in the referendum against austerity measures back in July, see him as a traitor. Moreover, opposition parties have shown no support for the pension proposal while negotiations between Greek authorities and creditors continue.
On Tuesday, creditors objected to the Greek plan to increase social security contributions by 1.5 percentage points in order to meet the bailout targets suggesting this could damage economy competitiveness and demanded more cuts to existing pensions instead.
Tsipras expressed the willingness of the government to implement the agreement without crossing “strictly red lines”, in his speech at the Political Secretariat of Syriza the same day. He also noted that the government had been backed “three times in less than a year, by the Greek people" referring to the last two elections and the referendum.