Disabled and chronically-ill people from around Greece protested in central Athens on Friday against the austerity measures announced by the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The measures are just the latest move by the ruling Syriza party to secure bailout loans from its international lenders.
Hundreds of protesters poured into the streets in wheelchairs carrying black balloons, while deaf demonstrators wore white gloves and joined anti-government chants through sign language.
“Tax the rich, our needs are above their profits” and “No more cuts!” were the slogans chanted by demonstrators who make up one of the sectors most affected and vulnerable to the economic crisis that has hobbled the European nation for more than six years.
The National Confederation of Disabled People of Greece has said that unemployment among people with disabilities was more than double the national jobless rate of 23 percent, with poverty levels also sharply higher.
The demonstration followed a mass protest and nationwide strike observed last week by thousands of public sector workers as the government announced the fresh measures in an attempt to clinch a new deal with bailout lenders.
The 2015 victory of the left-wing Syriza coalition was seen as a show of the Greek people's frustration with these austerity policies. However, the Greek Parliament has already announced that next year’s public budget will include increasing taxes to boost government revenues.
Since 2010, the debt-ridden country has received three bailouts from international lenders. The bailouts have Greece locked in a cycle bereft of economic growth while the government remains locked in a struggle to meet the strict conditions set by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the release of more funds under the country's third international bailout.