Greek police, firefighters protest
More rallies planned for today
THESSALONIKI, Greece - More than 1,000 police officers and firefighters staged an anti-austerity rally in Greece’s second-largest city yesterday, before major union rallies planned over the weekend against cost-cutting policies that have pushed unemployment to record levels.
The demonstrators, angry at pay cuts, attended the rally in uniform in Thessaloniki, chanting “Don’t push us into poverty.’’
“The government has surrendered all sectors of public life to the country’s creditors,’’ Christos Fotopoulos, head of Greece’s National Police officers’ Association, said. “Everything is being demolished by austerity. . . . All our hopes of recovery have evaporated.’’
The protest was staged before the officers help provide security at major union rallies planned for today, when Prime Minister George Papandreou will deliver an annual keynote speech on the state of the economy.
More than 5,000 police officers are on duty for around 10 weekend rallies.
Earlier yesterday, about 100 protesting municipal workers heckled Papandreou, as he visited Thessaloniki City Hall.
Greece is being kept financially afloat by two successive international bailout-loan deals totaling $302.6 billion.
Despite nearly two years of painful austerity measures, the crisis-hit country is facing growing pressure from European rescue creditors after missing its ambitious deficit reduction targets so far in 2011.
Government spokesman Ilias Mosialos said that up to 20,000 civil servants could be suspended with reduced pay for up to a year, as the Socialist government battles to slash payroll costs.