Rallies in Athens, Europe ahead of bailout talks

AFP , Sunday 15 Feb 2015

Tens of thousands of people joined rallies in Greece on Sunday ahead of talks in Brussels on the New Leftist government's bid to revise its massive bailout.

Supporters also gathered in several European capitals on the eve of the meeting of eurozone finance ministers to join Greece in calling for a radical revision of the Europe's austerity policies.

The rally outside the parliament in Athens drew some 18,000 people, police said, who cheered as a demonstrator swooped through the crowds wearing a large papier-mache yellow plane, with "Greece is taking off" written on its side.

"We want justice here and now... for all the suffering Greece has gone through the past five years," 58-year-old Theodora, who has been unemployed for the last three years, told AFP.

A protester wearing a mask of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and wielding a large plastic needle with "austerity" daubed on it jousted with a fake Greek premier Alexis Tsipras armed with a huge pair of red scissors.

"I'm not afraid of anything, whatever bad was going to happen has already happened," 62-year-old pensioner Vimitra told AFP, referring to five years of severe austerity in the debt-laden country.

Some 8,000 people also thronged the streets in Thessaloniki, Greece's second biggest city in the north of the country, calling on Brussels to loosen the noose of austerity.

In Paris, around 2,000 people walked through the city centre in a show of solidarity with Greece against what organisers called "the Goliath of finance".

Marchers unfurled flags from the hard-left Syriza party of their new prime minister and chanted: "In Greece, in France, resistance against austerity and finance."

In Lisbon about 300 people took to the streets with banners reading "Greece, Spain, Portugal, our battle is international."

"We want to express our solidarity with the Greek people to defend their right to decide their own future," said Paulo Coimbra, a 46-year old economist and one of the organisers of the march.

"We contest austerity in Portugal as well, it's time to say 'enough' to the grip financial power has on political power," he added.

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