Greek pensioners rock police bus at Athens protest, tear-gassed in return (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Greek pensioners shout slogans during a demonstration against planned pension cuts, in Athens, Greece, October 3, 2016. © Alkis Konstantinidis
Tensions are running high in the Greek capital after crowds of pensioners rocked a police bus and clashed with officers during a rally over cutbacks to benefits imposed by the government. Police deployed tear gas against the protesters.

The protest took place on Monday morning when about 1,500 pensioners started marching to the Maximus Megaron, an official residence of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens, Reuters reported. Ruptly said that about 2,000 people took part in the rally.

“Shame on you now government,” said one of the slogans at the rally, apparently addressing Tsipras.

The protesters were reportedly demanding a meeting with Tsipras, Greek media said.  

However, the demonstration was promptly confronted by riot police. Dozens of protesters tried to turn over a police bus which was blocking their way to Tsipras’ residence.

In response, police deployed tear gas against the pensioners, local media and Reuters reported. Photos and videos released on social media show tear gas being dispersed at the demonstration.

“Is it possible that I should pay the same real estate tax as a rich businessman?” Nikos Saslov, a civil servant who will retire next year, told Reuters.

“If they (the government) are leftists, then I’m Sophia Loren,” added another protester.

READ MORE: Athens urged to speed up reforms to get rescue loans from EU 

Shortly after the protest, the Greek authorities reportedly banned the use of tear gas against pensioners and workers at the rallies. 

At the end of September, the Greek Parliament passed a law to cut pension spending and transfer control of public utilities to a new asset fund. The reforms sought by the country’s creditors may help unlock €2.8 billion ($3.1 billion) from Greece’s €86 billion bailout program.

The new measures sparked demonstrations and public sector strikes across the country. Apart from pensioners, workers at Greece’s public water utility companies in Athens and Thessaloniki rushed to the streets in protest at the end of September.

Greece’s public sector union (ADEDY) also criticized the transfer of assets into the fund, saying it opens the way for a fire sale of strategic state-controlled companies to private investors.

The law preceded a strong warning from the European Union. Brussels warned that it will not release a new bailout tranche to Greece in September because Athens has managed to implement only two out of 15 reforms previously agreed with its international creditors.

READ MORE: Athens passes new austerity measures to get rescue loans from EU 

Tsipras has repeatedly urged the EU to recognize the Greek debt crisis as a “European problem,” saying that the dispute between Greece and its international lenders over the country’s debt management was damaging the recovery.

Under the terms of the 2015 deal, creditors – including the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the Eurozone – are to provide €86 billion in aid to Greece by 2018 in return for unpopular austerity measures. The reforms include tax hikes, pension cuts, as well as the privatization of public assets. Greece is also obliged to bring down a primary budget surplus to 3.5 percent of GDP by 2018.

Eurozone authorities have already approved a tranche of €10.3 billion from the overall package with an initial €7.5 billion transferred to Athens in June.