Connect to share and comment

Ordinary Greeks angry at government and rioters

But youth see debt crisis as evidence that the capitalist system is broken.

ATHENS, Greece — Outside the charred and blackened Marfin Egnatia Bank branch in central Athens, where three workers met a fiery death during a violent demonstration May 5, an impromptu shrine is growing.

Thousands have left flowers, notes, teddy bears and votive candles, expressing their outrage that the protests against financial austerity measures turned deadly. Up and down the street, smashed windows still testify to the violence that rocked the city.

“Shame,” reads one sign, “to those who did this and those who encouraged such behavior.”

Greeks are still coming to terms with the tragedy and the economic crisis that sparked it. As they wait for rescue money from the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to start flowing and pull them back from the edge of bankruptcy, the country is awash in a raft of complicated, and sometimes conflicted, emotions. There’s humiliation, anger, fear and even perhaps a little bit of perverse pride that their tiny country has the ability to rock global markets and shake the foundations of the European project.

But there’s very little relief. One of the few things all Greeks can agree on is that the immediate future here looks bleak.

Before the deadly protests last week, public sentiment was tipping against the government and anger was growing at the cost Greece is being asked to pay for help. The deaths have deeply shocked Greeks and the tragedy may help dampen the protests and give the government some breathing room.

“Someone has to put an end to the violence,” said Costas Tavernarakis, a 36-year-old computer engineer who joined a candlelit vigil outside the burned bank on Sunday evening. He supports the austerity plan and says the protesters don’t reflect the will of the Greek people. He dismisses the rioters, whom he blames for the deaths, as a dangerous fringe. “There’s a faction of the population that has little regard for law and order. They believe in revolution.”

Among Greece’s youth — unemployed, disaffected and cynical about the future — there are those who are indeed agitating for an uprising. For the far-left in Greece, the current crisis is simply proof that they were right all along and that the capitalist system is broken.

“All this happened because people just get pressed and pressed,” said Alexandra Kolla, an unemployed 30-year-old who joined a peaceful anti-IMF protest over the weekend. “And after a while you go and burn things.”