The burnt-out shells of at least 45 buildings in central Athens were still smoldering on Monday morning after a weekend of angry protests reached its apex on Sunday night in what Greek Prime Minister Luca Papademos called the worst breakdown of violence since 2008. Broken glass, chunks of marble ripped from the public squares, and empty tear-gas canisters lined the streets after an all-night battle pitted protesters against security forces who say they were outnumbered by a 5–1 ratio. Hundreds of protesters and police officers were injured and local Greek Sky television reported that at least twice, security forces ran out of tear gas.Protests were held across the country, including in the tourist havens of Crete and Corfu, but the violence centered in Athens, where more than 80,000 protesters took to the streets burning buildings and destroying property. An estimated 20,000 people also gathered in Greece’s second city Thessaloniki, where looters broke storefront windows and destroyed city parks. On Sunday, protesters were joined by a violent contingent of masked anarchists who took direct aim at security forces under the violent anti-authority mantra of the Black Bloc movement.The demonstrations followed general strikes last week that were meant to warn politicians against passing a biting austerity package that would save Greece from debt default—at a hefty price tag for the population. The $4.3 billion package was ultimately approved by a 199 to 74 margin in a late-night vote, but the victory was bittersweet for Greek leaders. “We must understand and persuade Greek citizens that when you have to choose between bad and worse, you must choose the bad to avoid the worst,” Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told Parliament ahead of the vote.Greek leaders had until Feb. 15 to adopt the austerity measures, but they were compelled to push the bill through Parliament over the weekend—before world markets opened Monday morning—in an attempt to show European leaders led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the country deserved to be saved. Shares in Greek banks rose by 10 percent on Monday in a clear sign of approval that the bill was passed. But the violent reaction led many to wonder whether ordinary Greeks can afford to stay in the euro zone and whether the weekend’s events will become the norm. Concern that the Greek measures are like putting a bandage on a cancerous tumor have prompted many European leaders to openly question the fate of the euro zone’s single currency. Greek leader Antonis Samaras, head of the conservative opposition who is favored to win Greek elections, warned supporters of contagion among the weaker European economies. "We should show the Europeans that what is happening in Greece will soon spread to the rest of Europe if we do not change the policy of endless austerity."
Greece Boils Over - Yahoo! News