Greek police clash with anti-austerity protesters

ATHENS Wed Feb 23, 2011 2:09pm EST

1 of 10. A policeman is seen in flames after a petrol bomb was thrown at him during riots in front of the parliament in Athens, February 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Giannis Liakos/Icon

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police clashed with protesters on Wednesday as around 100,000 workers, pensioners and students marched to parliament to protest austerity policies aimed at helping Greece cope with a huge debt crisis.

Riot police fired scores of rounds of teargas and flash bombs at protesters hurling petrol bombs, choking the main Syndagma Square with smoke and sending crowds of striking protesters running for cover.

The 24-hour strike by public and private sector employees grounded flights, closed schools and paralyzed public transport in the first nationwide walkout against cost cuts this year.

In the biggest march since December 2008 riots brought the country to a standstill for weeks according to police sources and eyewitness, 100,000 Greeks marched through the streets of Athens chanting "We are not paying" and "No sacrifice for plutocracy." Police officially put the figure at 32,000.

Riot police fired teargas in several places to disperse demonstrators hurling stones and plastic bottles. Shops boarded up their windows and central Athens hotels locked their doors.

Fifteen policemen and 10 civilians were injured, including one journalist slightly hurt by a petrol bomb, police officials said, while 26 protesters were detained.

Protesters broke up marble paving stones for rocks to throw at police, set garbage cans on fire and damaged bus stops. Others unfolded a black banner reading "We are dying" in front of parliament.

"Enough is enough! All these tax hikes are killing our businesses and we have to fire people," said bar owner Costas Loras, 42.

Despite many strikes, the Socialist government cut pay and pensions and raised taxes last year in return for a 110 billion euro ($150 billion) bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund that saved Greece from bankruptcy.

Greece's international lenders approved a new 15 billion euro tranche of the aid this month, but set a tougher target for privatization proceeds and called for more structural reforms.

"This medicine is worse than the disease. It makes the rich richer and the poor poorer," said Yannis Panagopoulos, president of Greece's largest union GSEE. "We will continue fighting, we won't stop."

Markets are watching for any derailment of Greece's fiscal efforts. Analysts say strikes are unlikely to shake the government, which has a comfortable majority in parliament.

"People once again expressed their opposition to the austerity measures. But no matter how big these protests are they can't change the government's policies," said Costas Panagopoulos, head of ALCO pollsters.

Private sector union GSEE and its public sector sister ADEDY, which together represent about 2.5 million workers or half the Greek workforce, have vowed to resist austerity measures, saying they are killing the economy.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

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Comments (5)
alderman wrote:
Greeks are the first to be hit by the incompetence of their domestic, but also of the EU, leadership and so far have been left to their predicament with various suggestions thrown lightly in the air like the one yesterday by a fat German banker who has been suggesting to Greece to leave the euro. What this fat man appears to forget is that the German surpluses are the main cause of the difficulties of several other weaker EU/eurozone econnomies. If Greece leaves the eurozone, it is more than certain that other members will follow suit, not to mention those poor countries watching their contractual dates for joining the euro come closer. Ths is going to be the end of the EU, as it will not survive the demise of its most precious achievement. Moral: Beware of fat men and small time politicians. They can be dangerous.

Feb 23, 2011 12:16pm EST  --  Report as abuse
satori23 wrote:
It may not seem so at first sight… but something wonderful is happening and will continue to happen around the globe… there is nothing wrong in putting things right.

There are many logical paradoxes in these broken democracies… corrupted people vowing to fight corruption, administrates who committed high treason and murdered their own citizens for personal gain vowing to protect their citizens…

Fact is, corrupted, that would be utterly broken people, are not fit to govern…

We’ve been pressing restart to continue long enough… there is a great opportunity in these crises, for all of our kind.

imo that is, as ever.

Feb 23, 2011 7:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
djlowballer wrote:
Corruption is why the greeks have to go to austerity measures in the first place. They implemented all of those social systems without any way to afford them and lied to the rest of the world about their financial situation. These people are protesting in favor of a corrupt government. They don’t want a functioning state, they care more about their personal welfare.

Feb 23, 2011 11:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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