On July 11, thousands of people took to the streets of Madrid to support the coal miners from the Northern Asturias region that had marched into the country’s capital to protest the reduction in subsidies to the mining industry. When the coal miners, who had began the strike in May, finally arrived to Madrid, they were met with a wave of support and solidarity from a population that is reaching a tipping point in social discontent and resistance against austerity measures demanded by the European Union. Three days after the miners’ protest, on Friday 13, thousands of civil servants followed their example and demonstrated against the budget cuts in the public administration.
There is hunger in Europe. For the first time since World War II, this hunger and extreme poverty is not limited to pockets of exclusion in Eastern nations but running across the continent. Greece, Italy, Spain are in international media almost daily with depictions of hardships, soaring unemployment and deprivation. The European summer saw the birth of “the indignant ones”, a wave of protests sweeping these nations and to an extent, replicated across France. These “indignant ones” clashed violently with police at the peak of the Greek anti austerity protests, expressing a collective discontent that went, for the most part, ignored. Now, two months after these clashes, the European Union is still not responding with the haste that would be expected to aid its own citizens. A European Union that was once portrayed as “strength in unity” is now more fragmented and disunited than ever since its creation.
The last few years have been a tumultuous time in Greek politics, especially after the debt “crisis” of 2010 and the subsequent EU/IMF bailout. Protests and riots on the streets of Athens have been a common sight on the news.
In the midst of this, some surprising folk heroes have emerged – Kanellos and Loukanikos, two stray dogs with a habit of fighting on the side of protesters. Kanellos (Greek for “cinnamon”) is the original riot dog, famed for accompanying protesters at protests. After a dozen years of living with students at the Polytechneio, the National Technical University of Athens and the site of the 1973 student uprising–sadly, Kanellos died in 2008. But another stray dog Loukanikos soon appeared on the streets of Athens (mistakenly identified by The Guardian as Kanellos). Loukanikos has his own dedicated online following, with a twitter and tumblr documenting his every move. Amazingly, he appears unfazed by even the most violent of protests, even in the midst of thrown rocks, water canons, and tear gas. Loukanikos shows solidarity, just as Kanellos did.
And there has been much need of it lately. Since the imposition of the IMF measures last year, there have been 11 general strikes in Greece, regional strikes and other protests. On May 25th, the aganaktismenoi (outraged) protesters took Syntagma square opposite parliament, holding it ever since with crowds at times of up to one hundred thousand people. These people protest the changes proposed by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, a 38 billion dollar austerity program required under Greece’s ($145 billion) bail-out package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.