Greek protesters drape banners on Acropolis

By DEREK GATOPOULOS, AP

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Angry Greeks took to the streets Tuesday and unfurled banners at the ancient Acropolis, the country’s most famous monument, to protest harsh new austerity measures as strikes began across the country.

Greece’s cash-strapped government announced sweeping spending cuts worth euro30 billion ($40 billion) through 2012 on Sunday, in order to secure a vital rescue package of loans from the International Monetary Fund and the other 15 European Union countries using the euro as their currency.

About 4,000 teachers and students marched to Parliament to protest the cuts, carrying black flags and holding banners reading: “Send the bill to those responsible.”

Scuffles broke out as they approached the Parliament building, with demonstrators throwing stones at riot police, who responded with small bursts of pepper spray to keep the crowd back.

Earlier, about 100 protesters from the Greek Communist Party cut through locks on the gates of the major tourist attraction shortly after dawn and hung banners in Greek and English reading: “Peoples of Europe – Rise Up.”

Police did not intervene as the protesters carrying red flags stood beside the ancient Parthenon, next to the two large banners. The demonstrators did not attempt to prevent tourists from visiting the site.

“This is a message to the people of Europe,” said Communist Party official Panagiotis Papageorgopoulos, who was among the protesters. “People have the same problems everywhere. We can take control of our fate with organized protests, so that our lives are not run by the EU and the IMF.”

The new measures, which are being submitted in a draft bill to Parliament Tuesday and are to be voted on by the end of the week, will result in deeper cuts in pensions and public servants’ pay, and a new hike in consumer taxes.

Public servants, including state school teachers and hospital workers, began a 48-hour strike Tuesday, with protest marches planned later in the day.

The strike led to several domestic flights by Greece’s Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines being canceled, while all flights to and from the country were to be grounded for 24 hours Wednesday as air traffic controllers join in a nationwide general strike.

Wednesday’s strike is expected to shut down services across the country. Public transport will halt in the morning and evening, government offices will remain closed throughout the day and state hospitals will function with emergency staff.

To read more, visit: http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100504/D9FG0LQ00.html

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