Video: Violence seizes Athens as Greece passes austerity bill

  1. Closed captioning of: Violence seizes Athens as Greece passes austerity bill

    >>> overseas this was a make or break day in grease, where the parliament held a key vote to deal with that nation's dire situation, one that's having a ripple effect as you may know around the world. the vote again brought people to the street. another day of a lot of violence there. cnbc's michelle caruso cab can brother row.

    >> this is the greek parliament voted to avoid bankruptcy. protesters set fire to the finance ministry .

    >> we cannot stand them, we cannot pay, we are not going to pay.

    >> reporter: when it was over, more than 100 were injured including 38 police officers . unrest is expected to continue as the government struggles to impose the five-year-old -- opposed by 80% of the pop lagsz. the president argued the suffering was necessary to avoid the country's collapse. support from two opposition lawmakers assured passage. but even a new $17 billion loan may not be enough to avoid financial meltdown.

    >> lots of people do not believe this can resolve the situation. i think congress needs to prove that this was a viable way out.

    >> chanceler andrea merkel held the vote as a really good piece of news. but thousands on the streets of@neof thens disagrees they hope to raise several billion by selling off the water company and the utility company and some of the country's beaches.

    >> i know it's been a long stay there, we appreciate your reporting here tonight.

msnbc.com news services
updated 6/29/2011 3:16:08 PM ET 2011-06-29T19:16:08

Greece fended off a bankruptcy that would have roiled global markets and threatened the future of the euro when lawmakers on Wednesday backed controversial austerity measures in the face of violent protests.

Investors cheered the bill — which aims to cut spending and raise taxes by €28 billion ($40 billion) and raise €50 billion ($71 billion) in privatizations over five years — but, in Athens, the mood was dark. In a haze of tear gas, protesters hurled anything they could find at riot police and tried to blockade the Parliament building.

A Greek default would threaten the viability of the euro, the EU's common currency, and send shock waves through global markets similar to those that kicked off the global financial meltdown after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

While world markets rose on the news that the bill passed, Greece is not yet out of the woods. The bill — along with another that must be passed Thursday on implementing the austerity package — will release the next €12 billion ($17 billion) installment of a €110 billion ($157 billion) international bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker indicated after the vote that Greece would get the fifth batch of its bailout loans.

But many Greeks complain they have already paid dearly in a year that has seen public sector salaries and pensions cut and unemployment rise to above 16 percent.

Get the latest updates on this story from breakingnews.com

"This is bad, the country will be sold for a piece of bread," said Dimitris Kostopoulos, a 48-year-old insurer who was protesting Wednesday. "There were many other more appropriate alternatives to this. Parliament has once again betrayed us."

The next installment Greece hopes to get will only see it through September, leaving open the question of how the country, burdened with piles of debt, will right itself.

On Sunday, eurozone finance ministers will meet in Brussels to make progress on a second bailout for Greece that is hoped will address more long-term problems. As part of that plan, banks are expected to share some of the burden, possibly by rolling over Greek bonds that they hold, as French banks have already volunteered to do.

Story: Economic crisis in Greece could reach United States, IMF warns

Prime Minister George Papandreou has said the second bailout will be roughly the same size as the first.

But many economists expect even that reprieve will not be enough, and Greece will need a more significant restructuring of its debt.

"We must avoid the country's collapse with every effort," Papandreou said before the vote. "Outside, many are protesting. Some are truly suffering, others are losing their privileges. It is their democratic right. But they and no one else must never suffer the consequences ... of a collapse."

But the specter of continued protests could undermine the government's ability to implement the harsh austerity measures, which slap taxes on even some of the lowest-paid Greeks and raise consumer taxes during a recession.

"While approval of the package is an essential first step toward Greece getting the much-needed funding it needs from the EU/IMF to meet its upcoming financial obligations, they are not out of the water just yet," said Carl Campus, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

Image: Protestors clash with riot police during a 48-hour general strike
Aris Messinis  /  AFP - Getty Images
Protestors clash with riot police during a 48-hour general strike in Athens on Wednesday.

As lawmakers voted, stun grenades echoed across the square outside Parliament and acrid clouds of tear gas and orange and green mist from smoke bombs and flares hung in the air. Several banks and storefronts were smashed, while a Socialist dissenter who backed the government at the last minute, Alexandros Athanassiadis, was briefly assaulted by protesters after leaving Parliament on foot.

One group of anarchists armed with staves and iron bars attacked finance ministry offices just off Syntagma Square, smashing windows at the entrance and on higher floors. A post office on the ground floor of the ministry building was set on fire, sending acrid grey smoke billowing into the sky.

In cat-and-mouse clashes with police, rioters erected makeshift barricades with benches, chairs and garbage bins on the fringes of the square, where thousands of peaceful protesters demonstrated against the austerity plan.

Slideshow: Greek Economy (on this page)

A general strike that began Tuesday also ground the country to a halt, grounding planes, docking ferries and stranding tourists during the busy summer season.

By Wednesday night, police said 38 officers had been injured, including one who was seriously hurt when he was hit in the face by a chunk of marble. Thirty protesters were detained, with 11 of them arrested. Emergency services said they had treated 47 protesters for injuries.

Dozens of injured were treated at a makeshift first aid center set up inside the square's metro station. Most were treated for breathing problems, contusions and broken bones, volunteers at the first aid center said, appealing for medical supplies.

Across Europe, officials hailed the vote as an act of "national responsibility" and urged Greek lawmakers to follow up with another positive vote Thursday.

PhotoBlog: Images of the protests in Greece

"That's really good news," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said when told of the outcome of the vote on her way out of an economic forum in Berlin. Germany is Greece's biggest creditor.

In a joint statement, the heads of the EU commission and council, Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, said Greece had taken "a vital step back — from the very grave scenario of default."

Equally, relief was the main response in markets. Soon after the vote, the euro was trading at a fairly elevated level around the $1.44 mark while stock markets around the world were posting big gains.

The unpopular package of spending cuts and tax hikes passed by 155 votes to 138, with five opposition deputies voting "present" — a ballot which backs neither side.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Greek austerity protests turn violent

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  1. Protesters take part in a rally against austerity in front of the parliament at Syntagma square in Athens on June 30. The Greek parliament passed a second austerity bill, opening the way for the EU and IMF to release a 12 billion euro (about $17 billion) loan instalment which Athens urgently needs to stave off bankruptcy. (Yiorgos Karahalis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A woman sweeps broken glass from the floor of a fast-food restaurant following two days of violent demonstrations around Syntagma square in Athens on June 30. (Yiorgos Karahalis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A protester holds stones during violent protests around Syntagma square in Athens on June 29. Greek police fired teargas and battled masked demonstrators who attacked the finance ministry on Wednesday after lawmakers passed the first of two austerity bills demanded by international lenders to stave off default. (John Kolesidis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Riot police fire tear gas to disperse protesters during clashes near the Greek Parliament on June 29 in Athens. (Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

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    A bleeding protester is seen following clashes with riot police at Syntagma square in central Athens on June 29. (Petros Giannakouris / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A protester prepares to hit riot police with a stick during clashes at Syntagma Square, central Athens, on Wednesday, June 29. (Petros Giannakouris / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Demonstrators cower from the impact of stun grenades in front of Parliament in Athens, June 29. (John Kolesidis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A protester sprays riot police with a fire extinguisher in Syntagma Square, June 29. (Yannis Behrakis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Protesters, their faces covered with a liquid antacid to help protect against the effects of tear gas, sit during clashes between riot police and other protesters, June 29. (Petros Giannakouris / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A protester kicks a tear gas canister back at police in Syntagma Square. (Yannis Behrakis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Riot police protect the Parliament in Athens. (Yannis Behrakis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Riot policemen evade a Molotov cocktail near the Greek Parliament, June 29. (Alexandros Vlachos / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Demonstrators clash with riot police in front of the Greek Parliament, June 29. (Orestis Panagiotou / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A protester throws a stone at riot police in front of the Greek Parliament, June 29. (Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Protesters brace to square off against riot police in front of the Greek Parliament. (Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A Greek Orthodox priest drives his buggy next to riot police during clashes in central Athens, June 29. (Petros Giannakouris / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Police arrest a protester during clashes in central Athens, June 29. (Petros Giannakouris / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. People run away from tear gas during a protest at Syntagama Square in Athens, June 29. (Yannis Behrakis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. People carry an injured protester in Athens, June 29. (Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Protesters clash with riot police in front of the Greek Parliament, June 29. (Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Demonstrators clash with riot police in front of the Greek Parliament, June 29. (Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Police clash with protesters in Athens, June 29. (Panagiotis Tzamaros / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

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    An injured protester is tended to in Athens, June 29. (John Kolesidis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A protester shouts in front of riot police in Athens, June 29. (Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A riot policeman strikes a demonstrator in central Athens, June 29. (Thanassis Stavrakis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A man drives with his dog past riot police blocking access to the Greek Parliament, June 29. (Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Communist party lawmaker Liana Kanelli enters her car after protesters threw yogurt on her face as she tried to reach the Greek Parliament, June 29. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Riot police stand guard in front of the Greek Parliament, June 29. (Yiorgos Karahalis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. A protester throws a tear gas canister at riot police during a 48-hour general strike in Athens, June 28. (Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Riot police arrest demonstrators in Athens, June 29. (Milos Bicanski / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A protester throws a projectile at police in front of the Parliament, June 28. (John Kolesidis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. A stick-wielding man charges at a police officer during a 48-hour general strike in Athens, June 28. (Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Protesters run away from riot police in Athens, June 28. (Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

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  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

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  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

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  1. Image: Protesters take part in a rally against austerity in front of the parliament at Constitution square in Athens
    Yiorgos Karahalis / Reuters
    Above: Slideshow (33) Greek austerity protests turn violent
  2. Olle Johansson / Sweden, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (6) Greek Economy

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