The farmers of Greece have had it, and they're not going to take it anymore.
In yet another attempt to handle Greece's budget deficit, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras recently announced that the government planned to cut farmer pensions—and to raise their taxes as well. The cut to pensions would actually be the 11th such cut imposed since 2010.
The farmers of Greece were not amused. Like, at all.
They flocked to Athens to voice their distaste. In a two-day rally this week, farmers wielding shepherd's staffs threw stones and vegetables at the Agriculture Ministry and set dumpsters on fire. Police responded with tear gas in an attempt to disperse the irate farmers. Other clashes took place on the highways leading into Athens. Farmers have been blockading the highways into Athens with tractors for more than two weeks.
— Gael Michaud (@PantVal) February 12, 2016
As reported by the Associated Press, as many as 800 farmers from Crete arrived by overnight ferry and joined the protest. A law-enforcement official said the farmers "attempted to push the police in front of the Ministry's entrance. The police used tear gas to stop them." Windows were smashed in the Agriculture Ministry before the police intervened.
The police even had to retreat at one point when farmers, wielding staffs, threatened them with the pieces of wood. The farmers also allegedly threatened to spray the police with pesticide used for olive trees, according to police reports. At least four farmers were detained.
This protest comes after the police and workers clashed last week in Syntagma Square, the main square of Athens, during a general strike which united groups from different professions—lawyers, artists, accountants, doctors, seamen, and casino workers—all affected by recent austerity measures.
The cuts are part of an agreement by the Greek government with international creditors to secure a third round of bailout money. After months of negotiations, Greece was promised another bailout, but only after agreeing to put additional austerity measures into effect.
According to the New York Times, these measures include "raising the retirement age, cutting pensions, liberalizing the energy market, opening up cosseted professions, expanding a property tax that Greeks already revile and pushing forward a stalled program to privatize state assets." In exchange for agreeing to these measures, Greece got an initial payout of two billion euros, or about US$2.3 billion. It's only the first slice of a $98 billion loan program.
Maybe the powers that be in Greece—and by extension, the rest of the EU—will get the picture once they've seen 800 angry farmers tear shit up in Athens.