Athens protest shows solidarity with Greek farmers over pensions program
Thousands of people held a demonstration in Athens, Greece, on Saturday to show solidarity with farmers who have blocked dozens of highways and border crossings in recent weeks to protest the government’s proposed pensions program.
Police said demonstrators gathered at Syntagma Square outside the parliament building.
The protesters, including members of the leftist Pame trade union, expressed support for the farmers who arrived in the capital from the countryside on Friday, when about 10,000 protesters waving black flags marched through Athens behind a column of tractors.
Earlier Friday, protesters clashed with police in front of the Greek Agriculture Ministry and on a motorway outside the city.
Dozens of farmers spent Friday night camped out at Syntagma Square, lighting a fire in front of the parliament.
The farmers are discontent with government plans to increase their social security contributions as part of pension reforms demanded by Greece’s international creditors in exchange for a third major bailout that was agreed last year.
Widespread opposition to the reforms has led to the rare sight of professional workers such as doctors, journalists and teachers marching alongside regular factory workers and farmers in recent weeks, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the “necktie movement.”
Farmers also reject government-proposed plans to scrap benefits such as cheaper fuel and double their income tax by 2017 as the debt-wracked Greek government tries to get out of the financial crisis.
The economic bailout program was provided by the international lenders, namely the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The creditors have already granted Greece two bailout loans: one in 2010 and the other in 2012, worth a total of 240 billion euros (USD 272 billion).
Economic crisis hit the country back in 2009. Since then, Greece has witnessed a high unemployment rate and numerous labor protests.