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Eggs and stones thrown at House
IN A second day of protests against austerity, demonstrators yesterday threw stones and eggs at the parliament building but an increased police presence prevented people from storming the House.
Inside deputies voted through 23 new laws under the bailout deal providing for cuts in social spending and a slew of fresh taxes.
While protests by teachers and the disabled were peaceful yesterday, members of large families became violent, clashing with police and anti-riot squad MMAD officers.
Unable to enter the parliament building, some of the protesters went around the back through the municipal park but were unable to gain access.
There were no injuries during the fracas, but one woman fainted in front of the entrance. After some water was splashed on her face, she regained consciousness.
The large families protested against the proposed 50 per cent cut in benefits and the decision to stop children and student allowances.
A three-man committee from the protesters was allowed entrance to speak with House President, Yiannakis Omirou in an attempt to stop the proposed bill, but they were told that nothing could be done about it. Their response was both vocal and physical with chants of: ‘We’ll remember you at the elections’ and ‘We are mothers, not terrorists’ before anger got the better of some and they attempted to storm the entrance.
They were cut short by police and members of the riot squad (MMAD). After being stopped from entering the building, and despite pleas from some of the other protesters, eggs and stones were thrown at the glass door.
The general feeling was one of injustice and disbelief that the government was going through with the cuts on a section of society already struggling to get by.
“There are eleven thousand unemployed members of large families,” claimed one protester.
“They are murderers of our society, how can we possibly survive now with all of these cuts?” asked disgruntled 46-year-old, father-of-five, Yiannakis Ioannou.
Poppy, a mother of four, told the Cyprus Mail that she had to bring back her daughter who was studying in England as she would no longer be able to afford it.
Argyris Argyrou from the Pancyprian Organisation of Large Families (POP) said that help was being handed out in Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca to large families in need. “Members of large families must go to their local POP representative and apply for help and if they are deemed to be in need, they will receive help,” he said. “But I don’t believe it’s the troika’s fault, if you ask me it’s the people inside the finance ministry who decided that these benefits could be reduced,” he added.
A 76-year-old mother of 14, and grandmother of 46, Alexandra Tsiambarta was one of those at the front line. Her husband Antonios Tsiambarta, who has passed away, was one of the founding members of POP and together they sent eight sons to the army. “I sent my children to serve this country, which is now coming and taking away the measly €70 I was getting,” she said.
“Aradippou currently houses 850 large families, the most of any town or municipality,” her son Minas told the Cyprus Mail. “I am also a father of five and all I ask for is justice and equality for all, not just the members of large families,” he added.
The large families were followed closely by people with disabilities who received a round of applause on their arrival in front of the House. They also sent in a committee to speak with the House President to tell him of their disagreement at the proposed 9.0 per cent cut to their disability allowance.
Omirou was unable to see them himself, as he was presiding over the ongoing plenum and so sent a representative to listen but they only wanted to speak to him.
Many of those outside the House expressed their disbelief that the government was cutting money from a group of people whose benefits are already paltry. “When the state is stooping to the level of cutting money from people with disabilities then it truly has become the banana republic,” 48-year-old Andreas Potamitis said. “Disability benefit, which is a pitiful €337 [per month] is being reduced to €330, so of course this will affect us because we can’t work to make a living and we depend on benefits,” he added.
Fifty-two-year-old Ioannis Mavros who was injured while volunteering at a church and is now in a wheelchair also expressed his anger. “These cuts are truly unfair, I’ve written letters to the Archbishop to help me out, I have three children and I’ve been in this wheelchair for the last 24 years and instead of receiving help all we get are cuts to benefits,” he said. “Those in charge only want to help themselves,” he added.
Yesterday’s protest went a lot smoother than the first but it was evident that police were more prepared for any incidents. Last month disgruntled casual public workers who had been told their services were no longer required by the state stormed the house, and on Tuesday angry investors who claim they were duped into buying high-yield bank bonds disrupted a committee meeting. This led police to deploy more personnel, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said. “More and more protests are being planned so a plan has been put in place to protect the House.”