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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Violent anti-austerity protests grip Greek capital

Protesters throw petrol bombs to riot police as they demonstrate in front of the Greek parliament in Athens today.
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Greek police cleared the square in front of parliament today after clashing with black-clad demonstrators during a mass anti-austerity rally called to coincide with a vote on a bitterly resented new round of belt-tightening.

The view of the ancient Acropolis was obscured by smoke from burning piles of rubbish and a bank building was evacuated after being set on fire by molotov cocktails as a strike called by Greece's two main unions degenerated into violence.

Much of the country was shut down by the 48-hour general strike, the largest since the outbreak of the crisis two years ago with government departments, offices and shops closed and at least 100,000 people taking to the streets of Athens.

Prime Minister George Papandreou, trailing badly in opinion polls, has appealed for support from Greeks before parliament votes on the latest measures which include tax hikes, wage cuts and public sector layoffs.

But the mood was furious among demonstrators, fed up after repeated doses of austerity and increasingly hostile to both their own political leaders and international lenders demanding ever tougher measures to cut Greece's towering public debt.

"Who are they trying to fool? They won't save us. With these measures the poor become poorer and the rich richer. Well I say: 'No, thank you. I don't want your rescue'," said 50-year public sector worker Akis Papadopoulos.

The boom of tear gas canisters fired by police rang out, and black clouds of smoke from petrol bombs hung over Syntagma Square, scene of violent clashes between police and demonstrators at anti-austerity protests in June.

The latest outbreak of violence overshadowed the start of a 48-hour strike which shut down government departments, shops and public buildings across the country and which unions said was one of the biggest stoppages in years.

A huge crowd gathered in front of parliament earlier in the day but after hours of confrontation with a hardcore group of mainly younger demonstrators, police cleared the square. Groups of hooded youths continued to clash with police on side streets.

At least seven people were hospitalized, and there were several other injuries reported mainly from breathing problems, minor burns and cuts to the head. There were also serious clashes on major avenues away from the scene of the main rally.

More than 7,000 police had been assigned to Athens to deal with anticipated trouble with hundreds deployed in riot gear near parliament.

 

 


 

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Tags:  Greece  Austerity  George Papandreou  Merkel  lenders  bailout  clashes  strike  





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