Anarchy erupts in Greece as austerity bites
As Thessalonika riots, a town near Athens spins out of control with angry residents setting up massive roadblocks and hurling Molotov cocktails
As explosions boom, the town’s loudspeakers blare: “Attention! Attention! We are under attack!” Air-raid sirens wail through the streets, mingling with the frantic clanging of church bells. Clouds of tear gas waft between houses as helmeted riot police move in to push back the rebels. This isn’t a war zone, but a small town just outside Athens. And while its fight is about a rubbish dump, it captures Greece’s angry mood over its devastated economy.
As unemployment rises and austerity bites ever harder, tempers seem to fray faster in Greece, with citizens of all stripes thumbing their noses at authority. Some refuse to pay increased highway tolls and public transport tickets. There has been a rise in politicians being heckled and even assaulted. Yesterday, in Thessalonika, scores of activists were arrested after violent clashes with police.
The anger is most palpable in Keratea, a town of 15,000 people 30 miles south of Athens which appears to have spun out of control. The state’s attempt to start work on a planned landfill site on a nearby hillside in December caused locals to set fire to construction vehicles and erect massive roadblocks on a road that bypasses the town and runs to the capital. It’s a fight that has galvanised the town, from the mayor and the local priest to shopkeepers, farmers, schoolteachers and teenagers.