Greek protesters came out in full force in the streets of Athens today as German Chancellor Angela Merkel came and went to discuss further "painful" budget cuts the country will now endure to win favor with EU bankers. Modest estimates put the number of anti-austerity, anti-Merkel protesters at 50,000, who marched throughout the city, some facing clashes with riot police throughout the day.
In Merkel's first visit to Greece since its debt crisis erupted three years ago, she met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to finalize a $17.45 billion austerity program including pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions
Meanwhile, protesters who filled Syntagma Square across from Parliament held signs that read "You are not welcome, Imperialisten Raus" (Imperialists out) and "No to the Fourth Reich." Police fired teargas and stun grenades into the increasingly restless crowd who chanted anti-austerity slogans, while Samaras welcomed Merkel as a "friend" of Greece.
Merkel has continually pushed for the extreme austerity measures in the recession torn country before the Troika of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) will give a $38.8 billion installment of bank bailout loans as well as a pending second bailout of $173 billion.
Merkel stated today, "I am deeply convinced that this tough path is worth it and Germany wants to be a good partner." And Samaras added, "The Greek people are bleeding right now, but they are determined to win the battle of competitiveness."
Speaking to the rally in Syntagma Square, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) said, “Merkel is here to support the ‘Merkelites’ of Greece: Samaras, Venizelos and Kouvelis,” Tsipras said. He added that, “The Europe of peoples will triumph over the Europe of memorandums and barbarism...The democratic tradition of Europe will not allow a European people, the Greek people, to become a guinea pig of the crisis and to turn Greece into a vast social graveyard.”
As the protest grew throughout the day clashes between protesters and police lead to at least 30 protester injuries and about 300 arrests, police said.
Some 7,000 police officers were deployed for the six-hour visit, including anti-terrorist units and rooftop snipers.
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