November 18, 2015 / 11:34 AM / 3 years ago

Greek farmers, police clash during tax hikes protest

ATHENS (Reuters) - Police fired tear gas at dozens of Greek farmers in Athens who pelted them with oranges and tried to storm parliament during a protest against planned tax increases on Wednesday.

Greek farmers have long-benefited from subsidies and tax breaks and have been shielded by successive governments in a nod to supporting agriculture and keeping an important voter base.

But their status as a protected group has come under threat as part of Greece’s third bailout, prompting several protests in central and northern Greece.

On Wednesday, thousands of farmers rallied in central Syntagma square, waving the national flag and holding up banners which read “Hands off our land.”

Clashes erupted briefly when a group tried to break past a line of police in riot gear to reach parliament. Some protesters threw stun grenades and petrol bombs.

“We want to keep our land and to work and live in dignity,” said Antonis Bitsakis, a farmer from the island of Crete, wearing a traditional black headband and holding a shepherd’s crook. “We will fight to the end.”

The government must present its agricultural development plan to its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders by the end of the year.

Reforming the agricultural sector’s tax brackets is being negotiated with the country’s lenders and is a pre-requisite for the release of further bailout funds.

Reporting by Phoebe Fronista; Writing by Karolina Tagaris Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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