Support Marketplace

Death, violence darken Greek protests

A protester gestures to police near the Parliament building in the center of Athens.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: Greece is expected to approve drastic spending cuts today, a day after protests in the country turned deadly. Three workers died in a blaze at an Athens bank yesterday; more than 40 police officers were injured in the demonstrations. And today, prime minister there, George Papandreou, will tell lawmakers the country could go under, financially, if wage and pension cuts aren't made. Joanna Kakissis is with us live this morning, the reporter from Athens. Hi Joanna.

Joanna Kakissis: Hi Steve.

Chiotakis: Could these, now let's talk about these three deaths from yesterday, the tragedy there. Could it change the debate about the economy in Greece?

Kakissis: Yes, and probably in Prime Minister George Papandreou's favor. He was very angry when speaking in parliament yesterday. He said there's no excuse for violence, especially violence that ends in murder. The bank employees were all very young, in their 30's, and they're definitely seen as innocent victims. I talked to one analyst yesterday, and he said the conversation is no longer about workers suffering through tough spending cuts. It's about protesters killing the very workers they're supposed to be fighting for.

Chiotakis: And Joanna, what were the protests like? How did they got so out of hand?

Kakissis: Well you have to remember, demonstrations are actually common in Greece, and in fact they're part of the culture. And yet they are rarely violent. I was in the midst of yesterday's protests. The workers were chanting "burn down parliament, burn down the whorehouse."

Chiotakis: Mmmm.

Kakissis: They were throwing rocks. Unfortunately, this protest was essentially hijacked by these fringe, anti-globalist young Greeks called koukouloforoi -- which literally means "hooded youth." And they actually wear hoods. Yesterday, they threw a gas bomb into the bank and set it on fire.

Chiotakis: Yeah, and that's where the three women died from smoke inhalation. So what happens next, Joanna?

Kakissis: Well Parliament is supposed to vote on the latest spending cuts today, and Papandreou's Socialist party has a majority, so the measures will definitely pass. But the labor unions are organizing yet another demonstration tonight and people are definitely uneasy after protests yesterday got so out of hand.

Chiotakis: All right. Reporter Joanna Kakissis reporting live from Athens. Joanna, thanks.

Kakissis: Thank you.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...