A retired pharmacist struggling under Greece's troubled economy committed suicide in the middle of a public square in Athens, becoming a powerful symbol of the country's continuing fiscal crisis. The 77-year-old pensioner, Dimitris Christoulas, reportedly yelled, “I don’t want to leave debts to my children” before shooting himself in Syntagma Square around 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The square sits across the street from the Greek Parlimanet building and on top of a major commuter hub in the central part of Athens, and has been the site of many anti-government and anti-euro protests over the last year. More demonstrations broke out in the evening, as police and protesters clashed in the streets once again.
The man also left a note saying, "The government has annihilated all traces for my survival ... I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don't find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance."
The tree under which Christoulas died has already become a makeshift shrine as local papers call him a martyr for the country and politicians on both sides try to harness the symbolism of his death for their causes. With elections being held next month, many Greeks are eager to take out their frustrations on the politicians responsible for crippling austerity measures that have slashed government services (particularly for pensioners like Christoulas), failed to turn around unemployment (currently at 21 percent), and subjected them to continued humiliations at the hands of other eurozone countries that have had to bail them out.