Yet again, the familiar sight of Greeks fighting Greeks hit the news on Wednesday as protesters clashed with riot police in Athens. One hundred thousand protesters crammed into Syntagma Square on the second day of a 48-hour strike, coinciding with a government vote on the next round of cuts worth $16.5 billion.
The cuts need to be made in order for Greece to receive its next round of bailout cash, totalling an eye-watering $39 billion from the troika of lenders (IMF, ECB, EU). As it turns out, the troika don't even have to hand over the money as the IMF aren't allowed to lend money to countries with unsustainable debts. Countries like Greece, obviously.
Syntagma Square sits in front of the Greek parliament and, as well as resistance to the cuts from outside of parliament, workers inside the building (who have special pay rights compared to other workers) stormed into the parliament chamber and briefly halted the vote.
Back outside, rain threatened to drench the protest, but that didn't dissuade the hardcore, who—after a stand off with police—began hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks at the cops protecting parliament. The police immediately reacted with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades fired into the crowd of mainly peaceful protesters. Then, they took the opportunity to deploy their year-old water cannons for the first time, demonstrating just how seriously they're taking these protests.
Battles raged for a number of hours as the parliament cast their votes, but eventually the rain took its toll, the majority of protesters left the square, and the clashes died down. The vote was passed in the end, but it was always going to be a lose-lose situation for the government: voting it through would mean an inevitable breakdown in social order and more rioting, denying it would force the country into bankruptcy by the end of the month.
Despite the cannons, the disorder is in no way near the worst Athens has seen. Is that a sign the resistance is waning? Or is this the calm before the storm that could see both protesters and police escalate into clashes that surpass anything we've seen before? Only time will tell, but with another strike next week and the anniversary of the end of the Polytechnic Uprising on the 17th, I'm sure it won't be too long until we find out.
More fighting in Greece: