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Ban on Protest, Massive Police Force in Greece for Merkel Visit

Syriza leader Tsipras: "We will give her the welcome she deserves."

Common Dreams staff

Pensioners clash with riot police in Athens Oct. 8. (photo: Reuters/Yannis Behrakis)

An "unprecedented" security force, protest bans and public anger over EU-imposed austerity measures are set to greet German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she visits Greece on Tuesday.

Thousands have planned to protest the draconian austerity during Merkel's 6-hour visit when she'll meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and President Karolos Papoulias.

Opposition party Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras scoffed at Merkel's visit. "She does not come to support Greece, which her policies have brought to the brink. She comes to save the corrupt, disgraced and servile political system," said Tsipras. "We will give her the welcome she deserves."

The Guardian's Helena Smith adds:

With anti-EU sentiment at an all-time high, opposition parties and trade unions vowed a baptism of fire.

"She should expect demonstrations. Greek society will welcome her with mass protests," said Panos Skourletis, a spokesman for the radical left main opposition Syriza party.

The Independent Greeks party, also vehemently anti-bailout, has said it will make war reparations a major part of its own protest when it stages a "symbolic blockade" outside the German embassy in Athens during Merkel's visit.

Reuters adds the voice of Yannis Georgiou, 72, whose pension has been cut by one third.  "We don't want her here.  We will take to the streets against austerity and against the government. Maybe Merkel will hear something and see what we're going through."

But Greek officials have responded by issuing a protest ban and organizing an "unprecedented" security force that involves as least 7000 police and other security forces. Philip Pangalos reports in the Wall Street Journal:

The huge police presence, bolstered by six-foot-high metal barriers outside parliament, two police helicopters, 10 additional riot police units and a shiny new blue police water cannon that has yet to be used in anger, will form part of a massive security plan.

In addition, public gatherings and marches will be banned between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Ekathimerini reports.

The goal of the visit from the German Chancellor is to stress that Greece will be offered no alternative to the austerity path.

Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters on Monday: "She is going to Greece to express her support to the Greek government for the very demanding reform course that it has decided on and, in part, has begun to implement. She knows that the country faces very demanding and painful tasks."

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