Mourners lit candles at the spot where a Greek pensioner shot himself Wednesday.
Thousands of Greeks gathered in front of parliament Wednesday night and Thursday to pay their respects to Dimitris Christoulas, a debt-ridden pensioner who committed suicide
over the government’s austerity measures. Our Observer in Athens tells us why Christoulas is being heralded as a hero.
Christoulas, 77, shot himself in the head in Syntagma Square, near Greece’s parliament, on Wednesday morning. The former pharmacist left a note
explaining “the government has annihilated all possibility" of his survival. His pension, he wrote, had been drastically cut, and he didn’t want to find himself “fishing through garbage cans for sustenance.” He added, “I believe that young people with no future will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country.”
Thousands of people gathered for a vigil at the spot where Christoulas took his life Wednesday evening, leaving flowers and notes.
People gathered around the spot where Christoulas killed himself, then moved in front of Greece's parliament, just across the street. Video published on YouTube by Kimadenprilono of Greece's "I Won't Pay" movement.
Later in the night, protesters clashed with the police, throwing petrol bombs and rocks. The police counter-attacked with tear gas.
Protesters clashed with police in front of parliament Wednesday night. Video published on YouTube by Zafhaitidis.
On Thursday, people continued to flock to Syntagma Square, piling up more flowers and taping notes to a tree near the spot Christoulas died.
Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos released a statement saying: “In these difficult hours for our society we must all – the state and the citizens – support the people among us who are desperate.”
To meet the terms of a eurozone financial bailout, drastic austerity measures have been imposed on Greek citizens. Pensions have been cut, taxes raised, and thousands of civil sector jobs have been scrapped. There have also been steep reductions in pay and unemployment benefits.
As the country sank further into economic crisis in 2010 and 2011, phone calls to Athens suicide hotlines doubled.