The suicide of a 77-year-old pensioner outside of Greece's parliament has become a symbol of the nation's pain after an economic crisis brought on a host of austerity cuts and caused protests in Athens.
Dimitris Christoulas shot himself in the head in Athens because he had debts that he could not afford to pay back. Witnesses said the retiree shouted I have debts, I can't stand this anymore before he pulled the trigger, reported MSNBC. A suicide note found in his pocket said he would rather die than scavenge for food.
I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don't find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance, he wrote in his suicide note, according to BBC.
He is being hailed as a martyr for Greece.
The suicide of the retired pharmacist sparked sympathy and outrage throughout the nation. Some gathered at the spot where he died and laid flowers, while others have paid tributes online.
More than 1,500 demonstrators gathered at Syntagma Square Wednesday, chanting this was no suicide, it was a state-perpetrated murder. Violence erupted. Protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police, who responded by firing tear gas and flash grenades, reported the Washington Post.
Prime Minister Lucas Papademos issued a statement about the suicide as protesters gathered at Syntagma Square. He said it was tragic and that people and citizens need to support the people among us who are desperate.
Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said the suicide was a human tragedy but should not become part of the political debate, reported the Associated Press.
I don't know the exact circumstances that led that man to his act, Kapsis said to the Associated Press. I believe we must all remain calm and show respect for the true events, which we do not yet fully know.
Petros Constantinou, an organizer for the left wing Antarsya group that participated in Wednesday's protests, told the Washington Post that the very public nature of the act -and the fact that it was done in front of Parliament- made it political.
It was clearly a political act, said Constantinou. The fact that a person reached the point of giving his life to change the situation shows ... where the policies of austerity and poverty have brought people.
In his suicide note, Christoulas said he expected Greeks to take up arms and hang traitors in the square, reported the Washington Post.
Greece was hard hit with austerity measures by the European Union in an effort to raise the country out of its recent economic crisis. Thousands of civil service jobs have been cut, taxes raised, and there have been significant reductions in pay, benefits, and pensions, reported the BBC. The nation has an unemployment rate over 20 percent, with 48 percent of young people out of work.
Suicides have been on the rise, though exact figures are unknown.
Christoulas, described as a calm, family man, lost his pension after the government cut it to nearly nothing.
The government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the state, he wrote in his suicide note.
And since my advanced age does not allow me a way of dynamically reacting... I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life... read the note.
Dozens of people left messages like enough is enough and 'Who will be the next victim? at the square where Christoulas died.
It's horrible. We shouldn't have reached this point. The politicians in parliament who brought us here should be punished for this, said Anastassia Karanika, a 60-year-old retiree to MSNBC.
The suicide occurred a little under a month before elections are expected in Greece.
Protests are expected to continue Thursday.