Police fired stun grenades at protesters in central Athens on Friday as the nation continues to wrestle with its debt crisis and frozen banks. The protesters had assembled to encourage a ‘No’ vote on a Sunday referendum to decide whether or not Greece will endorse a bailout deal from international creditors, according to Reuters.
The violence was apparently short-lived, however, and the protests reportedly calmed down quickly. The altercation involved just a few dozen people, and individuals wearing all black and helmets were sighted. A video showed one man being carried by security forces.
The prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, spoke to the protesters in Athens on Friday and told them to vote against the credit measure, which he fears would bring in political instability and lead to his ouster. Tsipras was elected in January and promised to bring an end to the years-long austerity measures in the country. If Greece does not approve of the measure, the country’s future with the Euro currency could be in jeopardy -- a threat from the eurozone that Tsipras believes is a bluff.
“On Sunday, we are not just deciding that we are staying in Europe, but that we are deciding to live with dignity in Europe,” Tsipras told the crowd on Friday.
There were tens of thousands of Greeks in the streets of Athens Friday. They created rival protests that showed a deep fissure in the country on how to proceed.
For the last five days, Greek banks have been shut down in order to avoid a stampede of withdrawals, and cash withdrawals at ATMs have been rationed. As a result, lines have formed outside of the ATMs, and have been as long as a reported 50 people deep.
The vote looks like it will be tight at this point. Public opinion polls are within the margin of error, however four polls released on Friday put ‘yes’ slightly ahead of the ‘no’ camp. A fifth showed the opposite result.