The Greek food brawl: Hundreds fight each other for free vegetables on the streets of Athens
- Vegetables and fruits were handed out by farmers in Athens today
- One man was trampled and injured in the commotion caused by the free food
- Event sparked debate about the situation for the Greek people post collapse
By Sara Malm
PUBLISHED: 12:45 EST, 6 February 2013 | UPDATED: 06:09 EST, 7 February 2013
Hundreds of people were fighting eachother on the streets of Athens during a food giveaway, prompting an outcry over the growing desperation created by economic crisis.
Farmers protesting against government cuts gave away 50 tonnes of free vegetables and fruit in the Greek capital earlier today, causing chaos in the streets as impoverished and hungry people elbowed their way to the stalls.
Startling images of Greeks struggling to seize bags of tomatoes and leeks thrown from a truck outside the Agriculture Ministry have sparked further debate about poverty in the debt-ridden nation.
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‘These images make me angry. Angry for a proud people who have no food to eat, who can’t afford to keep warm, who can’t make ends meet,’ said Kostas Barkas, a lawmaker from the left-wing Syriza party.
Other lawmakers from across the political spectrum decried the images ‘of people on the brink of despair’ and the sense of ‘sadness for a proud people who have ended up like this’.
The living standards in Greece have dropped significantly since the collapse of their economy and as the nation enters its sixth year in recession, unemployment is at a record high.
In order to avoid bankruptcy, the country has been forced to push through painful wage and pension cuts demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund bankrolling the bailouts.
Hunger: A woman fills a plastic bag with vegetables as others reach for morsels from the trucks
The free food handout in Athens began peacefully as hundreds of Greeks lined up in advance outside the Agriculture Ministry.
Farmers had announced the giveaway as part of their ten-day protest against Greece’s conservative-led coalition government’s plans to increase taxation on agriculture.
They also demand that the government reduce the price of fuel and cut sales tax on their goods.
However the peaceful good-will protest soon escalated into chaos as the tables piled high with fruit and vegetables began to thin.
Tensions flared as dozens of people – some carrying small children – rushed to a nearby truck and shoved each other out of the way in the competition for what was left.
One man was treated for injuries after being trampled when he fell to the ground in the commotion.
Greeks lamented that income cuts and tax hikes had made the cost of living unbearable, forcing them to seek out free food.
‘It’s difficult. I never imagined that I would end up here,’ said Panagiota Petropoulos, 65, who struggles to get by on her 530-euro monthly pension while paying 300 euros in rent.
‘I can’t afford anything, not even at the fruit market. Everything is expensive, prices of everything are going up while our income is going down and there are no jobs.’