Students experience Greece unrest firsthand


Riots turned violent shortly after junior Daniel McGuire began studying abroad in Greece. A mixture of tear gas and smoke from Molotov cocktails float over the crowd.

By Daniel McGuire, Staff Writer

When I decided to study abroad in Athens, some worried about my choice due to the financial crisis currently ravaging Greece. I assured them I would be out of harm’s way and I would be fine. And I continued feeling that way right up until I was tear gassed by riot police.

Currently, Greece is on the verge of bankruptcy. As a result, the Greek Parliament was forced to take a vote on whether to receive an international bailout, which would force the country to pass economic austerity measures.

Essentially, by saying no to the measures, Greece would go bankrupt and send ripples throughout the world economy.
In much the same way the United States was forced to raise its debt ceiling, Greece had little choice but to say yes.

The restrictions the measures require will fall on the backs of the Greek people. In order to receive the 130 billion Euro bailout (~$176 billion), Greece was forced to lower its minimum wage by 20 percent and cut 3.3 billion euros ($4.35 billion) from jobs, wages and pensions this year alone.

That sort of cut is not well-received by anyone, much less the people of an already relatively poor country when compared to the other European nations.

In the Athenian way, the people flooded the streets to protest the bill—some peacefully, and some not so peacefully.

This decision will impact Greece for years to come, so public interest was high and passionate, and more than 100,000 protesters were out in the streets.

I was observing and photographing these peaceful demonstrations when peace was suddenly thrown to the wayside.

Burning Molotov cocktails started to fly, the crowd began to advance toward Parliament and the riot police started to fight back.

It’s a funny feeling seeing what looks like smoke going out over a crowd and realizing simultaneously not only is it tear gas but you are in a mob and can’t get away.

Luckily, I was not hit hard by the gas, and it was quickly neutralized by Greek protesters who came prepared for these riots.

As the day continued, the riots only got worse. After retreating to my apartment fifteen minutes away from the riots, I started to follow the stories online.

Live feeds revealed stores and buildings on fire, streets torn up, and open conflict between police and more than six thousand hooded anarchists.

We don’t seem to have this sort of riot in the United States. Maybe there are some demonstrations on Wall Street or in Washington D.C., but for the most part we are peaceful and many of us are even apathetic.

Walking along the streets in the aftermath of the riot made me realize though just how glad I am to be from America.

Greece is nice to visit, but the problems ravaging its economy and its people will last for decades.

I know that right now I am safe. But in the future, with the situation only projected to get worse, I do not know if that feeling of safety will last.