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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Greece Ravaged By Financial Riots

Burning buildings and tear gas filled the streets of Athens this weekend and through Monday.

Firefighters and cleanup crews swept through central Athens Monday after a night of violent rioting in response to the Greek parliament approving more harsh new measures on public spending cuts. Lawmakers argue that punishing public spending cuts will secure the nation from bankruptcy.

More than 170 people were hurt during the rioting. Authorities said that over 100 police officers required medical care after being injured by gasoline bombs and rocks hurled at them by rioters, while 70 citizens and visitors were hospitalized.

Police and rioters clash in Athens on Monday.  (Photo courtesy AP)
Police and rioters clash in Athens on Monday. (Photo courtesy AP)

Rioters destroyed or seriously damaged 93 buildings and burned at least 45 buildings, according to the Athens Municipality. Many of these burned buildings include neoclassical monuments that are listed as national heritage buildings.

Dozens of stores and cafes were also left in pieces, leaving owners and some public officials calling for state compensation.

"Once again, those in positions of responsibility, even though they should have been prepared, were unable to fulfill their duty and secure the well-being of citizens and visitors, cultural landmarks and historic buildings, public and private property and our country's international image," said head of Athens Traders' Association Panaghis Karellas.

He is demanding for the dismissal of Public Order Minister Christos Papoutsis.

Kamille Simmons, a USC student studying abroad in Athens, said the rioting has made life in the city the ultimate traffic jam. A 48-hour weekend worker's strike has put all public transporation at a standstill.

"The protests themselves are just really sad," Simmons said. "The austerity measures are awful. It's really going to change the way these people live and it's terrible because it's the government's fault."

Simmons said that the atmosphere has been pretty contained physically and easy to stay away from as a visitor but hard to watch the Greek people deal.

The rioting began Sunday afternoon when more than 100,000 protesters marched to the Parliament ahead of a vote that includes getting rid of one-fifth of civil service jobs over the next three years and cutting the minimum wage by an additional one-fifth. The bill was approved in order to relieve investors who pushed the Athens stock index up nearly 5 percent.

Police arrested at least 74 people and detained 92 people while having to escort fire crews as protesters refused access.

The new austerity measure comes after two years of repeated spending cuts and tax hikes that have pushed Greece's unemployment rate to more than 20 percent as the country continues to struggle.


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