Greeks Take To Streets In Anti-Austerity Protests

Sep 26, 2012

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

People are not getting much work done in parts of Europe. Last night, there were violent protests in Spain. They were protests against austerity measures, which is also the case in Greece, where a nationwide strike came today. It closed businesses and schools, and reporter Joanna Kakissis is following the story from Athens.

Joanna, what's been happening?

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Well, today, the protests started like every other protest we've seen in the last two years here. There was a big, peaceful crowd. They chanted. They held placards and posters, saying: down with austerity, you're killing us - some of the same slogans we've been seeing all year.

And then, like every protest, there's a small group of violent people, usually wearing masks, young people in their 20s who started throwing rocks at police. And the police fought back. And the police then ended up dousing the crowd with tear gas, very strong tear gas today. And the crowd left within about an hour.

INSKEEP: OK. So that's a normal thing. But this is added to a nationwide strike. And some people listening will inevitably ask the question: If Greece is short of money, is a strike that gets no work done the thing to do?

KAKISSIS: That's a good question. Strikes are a part of the culture in Greece. People have learned in the last 30 years here to demonstrate if they want something from the government. People go out in the streets and say, I want this, and usually, the unions have worked with politicians to get them. Obviously, since austerity has happened, there's no money, and they can't do that anymore. But, again, since it's part of the culture, people do it.

Now, what's interesting about these protests is that they've continued to go on and they continue - they're still very big in size. I mean, today, there were tens of thousands of people out, even though no matter happens at the demonstrations, the austerity measures go forward. Every government has followed the same line, including the current government, which really doesn't have much of a choice. They have to follow the austerity measures, or they're worried about social chaos if it doesn't go through.

INSKEEP: As well as the pressure from other European nations to get their financial house in order.

KAKISSIS: Absolutely. They need the loans.

INSKEEP: Joanna, thanks very much.

KAKISSIS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Reporter Joanna Kakissis is in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.