June 17, 2015 / 8:24 PM / 2 years ago

Greek government supporters rally in Athens against austerity

ATHENS (Reuters) - A few thousand demonstrators rallied in front of the parliament in Athens on Wednesday to protest against austerity and back the leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in its standoff with Greece’s international creditors.

A banner hangs in front of the parliament during a pro-government rally calling on Greece's European and International Monetary creditors to soften their stance in the cash-for-reforms talks in Athens, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

The demonstration, which appeared to be made up mainly of supporters of the ruling Syriza party, came as pressure piled on Tsipras’ government to accept creditors’ demands for savings on pensions as well as increases to value added tax.

Organized through social media platforms and encouraged by Syriza, the rally was much smaller than those that have packed tens of thousands into Syntagma Square in front of parliament at other points during six years of crisis.

“I‘m here to support the government against the lenders. We don’t want a VAT rise in electricity and water bills,” said 53-year-old accountant Katerlis Ippokratis. “The lenders want to steal the Greek people’s wealth.”

The Greek central bank warned on Wednesday the country risked being forced into default and out of the euro unless agreement was reached with its creditors very soon.

“I don’t think that the euro zone can afford a Greek exit from the euro, they will also suffer. I don’t think that it will happen,” said housewife Mavrommati Aristea, 54.

“We want to sent the message to the lenders that we can’t stand any more senseless measures.”

After years of recession that have reduced the size of the economy by more than a quarter and sent unemployment to more than 25 percent, there is deep resentment at the austerity measures demanded of Greece by its creditors.

“We have to fight even if there is the danger of returning to the drachma, which is something that I don’t want,” said 43-year-old public servant Christos Michailidis.

Protesters bore signs depicting Darth Vader, arch-villain of the Star Wars films, with the EU symbol turned into the Death Star, with other banners carrying slogans like “Democracy cannot be blackmailed” and “Our lives don’t belong to the lenders.”

Writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Andrew Roche

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