Greek protesters camp for weeks, shake politicians

Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:18pm GMT

By Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) - At the heart of Greece's angry protests against painful economic reforms are a diverse group of demonstrators camped in front of parliament, united in hatred for politicians they blame for pushing the country to ruin.

Although their anger, like that of many other Greeks, is visceral, the permanent protest is mostly peaceful, only erupting into violence last Wednesday when the Finance Ministry was firebombed during clashes with riot police.

Behind the protests is a belief that foreign powers are forcing Greeks to swallow medicine so bitter it could kill the patient and that fat cat politicians and millionaires have dodged pain and stuffed their wallets while Greece heads for catastrophe.

"Why should I pay? I haven't done anything wrong. I can't afford a yacht or a pool like they can," said Panagiotis Karydas, 50, a car mechanic who has voted for both the main political parties in the past.

"If I owe ten euros to the tax office they come after me. Why don't they go after politicians?" he asked in the Syntagma Square protest camp.

Greece could be the first sovereign default in the euro zone unless Prime Minister George Papandreou rams through more unpopular austerity in exchange for international aid.

The square in front of the shuttered parliament building is scene of a permanent protest, bedecked with banners and filled with small tents where demonstrators sleep.

They include students, some of Greece's army of jobless, pensioners whose savings have evaporated, workers, professors, and economists from all sides of the political spectrum.   Continued...

<p>Protesters gather in front of the parliament during a rally against austerity economic measures and corruption, in Athens' Constitution (Syntagma) square June 12, 2011. Picture taken with a Fisheye lens. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol</p>
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