ATHENS  - Hundreds of Greek mourners shouting defiant slogans attended the funeral on Saturday of a retired pharmacist who shot himself this week saying austerity cuts had left him in deep poverty.

“Forward the people, heads high, the only answer is resistance” they shouted, applauding as the coffin carrying Dimitris Chrisoula arrived at Athens’ main cemetery, television pictures showed.

Chrisoula’s daughter told mourners his act had been “deeply political”.

Her 77-year-old father shot himself in Athens’ central Syntagma Square in front of the parliament building on Wednesday, leaving a note saying his pension had been wiped out.

“I find no other solution for a dignified end before I start sifting through garbage to feed myself,” he wrote.

At the funeral, a message from composer Mikis Theodorakis, an icon of resistance against the junta that ruled Greece in the 1970s, was read out. He is a leading critic of the government cuts.

Chrisoula’s death focussed public anger at the human cost of the government’s swingeing austerity cuts aimed at resolving Greece’s massive debt crisis, prompting new protests and clashes with police.

After the funeral, at a rally in Syntagma Square, around 20 protesters attacked a police officer, stripping him of his bullet-proof vest and walkie-talkie before the officer could escape, said police.

They then burned his gear in the square. The officer required hospital treatment, police said.

In accordance with the wishes of the dead man, whose political sympathies lay on the left, the funeral ceremony had no religious component, which is unusual for Greece.

His remains were to be taken to neighbouring Bulgaria for cremation, a practice forbidden by the powerful Greek Orthodox Church.

Athens has been forced to cut state spending drastically, slashing civil servant salaries and pensions by up to 40 percent, to secure bailout loan payments from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Hundreds of thousands of Greeks have lost their jobs in the past year, and unemployment currently tops one million, a quarter of the workforce.

Christoulas, in his final letter of protest, compared the current government with the executive installed by the Nazis during their occupation of Greece in 1941.