More Than 20,000 Austerity Protests

ATHENS – Although not a single one has worked, there have been 20,210 protests, strikes and riots combined since 2010 against austerity measures attached to two bailouts of 240 billion euros ($330.7 billion) Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias revealed.

Successive governments have continued to impose the pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions that have created record unemployment, deep poverty, rising suicides and left as many as three million people without health insurance.

Dendias gave the numbers about the protests in a report to Parliament for the period between May 8, 2010 when Parliament first approved austerity, through March 28 this year.

The first in 2010 led to the death of three bank workers, including a pregnant woman, trapped in their offices when anarchists threw firebombs through the front window.

While it seemed like all the action was in Syntagma Square in the center of Athens across from the Parliament, only 6,266 protests were held in the city with the rest in Thessaloniki and other cities and towns.

Dendias didn’t say how much it cost to provide security for the thousands of police and riot squads assembled for the protests.

He was responding to questions from the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party which is opposed to the bailout conditions but said he had no idea either how many times police fired off tear gas and chemical weapons although those are inventoried.

“There are no official records for the incident number or type of crowd control used at police headquarters,” Dendias said in his statement. Police routinely used chemical weapons against protesters and were often seen clubbing them as well.

While the center of Athens was filled with tear gas, sometimes with the smell lingering for several days, and many people had to be treated for for the effects, he said police use of the chemicals was not “abusive” and allowed under the Greek Constitution to protect public safety.

He added that the Greek police force uses CS gas made in the USA, Israel, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Germany, Brazil and the Czech Republic.

Dendias said that the amount of CS (2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile) used in the tear gas was minimal although many of those affected could be seen choking and gasping and overcome. 

He said only one police officer had been disciplined for excessive use of the chemical. Tear gas was often fired even if the protests were not unruly, witnesses said.