04/07/2012 10:56 EDT | Updated 06/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Dimitris Christoulas: After Memorial Service For Greek Pensioner, Protesters Injure Policeman


ATHENS, Greece - Greek protesters marching in memory of a man who killed himself over financial woes that he blamed on the government attacked a policeman in Athens on Saturday, leaving him bloodied and stealing his bulletproof vest.

The demonstrators marched after a memorial service for Dimitris Christoulas, 77, a retired pharmacist who shot himself Wednesday in the Greek capital's Syntagma Square. He left a note blaming politicians for his money problems and calling on "young people" to kill their elected leaders.

His death has further galvanized Greeks angry over their leaders' implementation of tough austerity measures that are aimed at bringing the country out of its fiscal crisis but which have caused hardships for many ordinary citizens. Greece's economy is now also heavily dependent on international loans.

Hundreds attended the memorial service for Christoulas, singing and chanting slogans. Afterward, about two hundred people, escorted by bikers, marched through central Athens, ending their march at Syntagma.

There, some of the demonstrators spotted two policemen who had just finished their patrol. About a dozen protesters quickly put on balaclavas to hide their faces and pursued the policemen.

One managed to escape. The second was dragged down some steps, shoved to the ground and punched and kicked for about three minutes.

The attackers took his bulletproof vest, as well as a bag containing a belt, a uniform and handcuffs. The attackers placed some of the items on the spot where Christoulas shot himself, adding them to a makeshift memorial.

The policeman, his face covered in blood, managed to make his way to a police van that had arrived on the scene. A police official said the policeman was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The official did not give his name in line with agency rules.

According to a text of Christoulas' note published by local media, the man said the government had made it impossible for him to survive on the pension he had paid into for 35 years. "I find no other solution than a dignified end before I start searching through the trash for food," read the note.

Christoulas' daughter, Emy, told media that her father, who had taken part in several protests at Syntagma Square, had intended to send a political message with his suicide. He had incurred no debts, she said.

"Father, you could not grasp it when they took away our democracy, our freedom, our integrity, " Emy Christoulas said at her father's memorial service.

"You could not grasp it when they surrounded us with a harsh social and economic apartheid."

Christoulas' body will be cremated at a later date, in Bulgaria, because Greece lacks cremation facilities.


AP photographer Kostas Tsironis contributed to this report.

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