ATHENS – Amid a backdrop of protests against Sunday openings on the Greek capital’s busiest shopping street, a Greek-Australian tourist with his family said he was attacked by four hooded men after leaving a store and told: “Do not shop.”
The man, who was not identified, was caught up in demonstrations that have flared when stores open on more Sundays of the year besides sales periods, a demand of the country’s international creditors.
Many workers and unions are opposed to the openings which the lenders say are designed to make the country more competitive. Apart from tourist areas, stores are closed in Greece for most Sundays of the year, except for liquor stores, convenience stores, fruit and produce stores, kiosks and a few others.
The victim said he was attacked by the men upon exiting a store on Ermou Street. He said on camera that “I was walking with my family, and they came near and punched me for no reason. I didn’t tell them anything, I didn’t know them. They told me ‘do not shop,’” the newspaper Kathimerini reported.
The incident occurred after the end of a rally by unionists and employees against the Sunday operation of stores, in front of the victim’s wife, daughter and mother-in-law.
“We were just walking and four men, they suddenly turned around and hit my husband. There was blood everywhere, my daughter cried and fainted. I tried to pull him away but they did not care, they pushed me, my mother and the kid,” said the victim’s wife.
“Seriously, what kind of animals are they? This can’t be happening,” she said on camera.
“We are just tourists, we are returning to Australia tomorrow. We came here and spent our money for your economy, and they hit us? I’ll never come again, that’s for sure,” she added.
Pickets, strikes and other labor protests did not deter shoppers or retailers in central Thessaloniki on Sunday, where most shops took advantage of laws allowing them to open on the first Sunday during the sales period, the Athens News Agency said.
Only a few multinational chain stores guarded by strike pickets remained closed while elsewhere shopping traffic was reported to be similar to other days, though many customers were tourists from neighboring countries.
Protests in Athens started with a rally at the top of Ermou Street in Syntagma, while trade unions reported a low turnout by shoppers, with even tourists mostly clustered around the Monastiraki market and the city’s restaurants in spite of generous discounts.
Most shops on the Ermou shopping high street remained closed, possibly due to the low numbers visiting the center. In other Greek cities, shops remained open in central high streets but remained shut elsewhere.