Violence mars massive austerity demonstrations in Greece | Pakistan Today

Violence mars massive austerity demonstrations in Greece

Violence marred huge demonstrations in Greece on Wednesday as unions launched a two-day general strike ahead of a vote on a new bill tightening the financial screws in a bid to stave off bankruptcy.
Police in Athens clashed with protesters outside parliament as more than 70,000 people according to authorities, and 200,000 according to unions, converged on central Syntagma Square.
Four people including two policemen were hurt, according to the ambulance service. Police said four youths were detained at the start of the demonstration, with reports saying firebombs were found in their possession.
Tear gas blanketed central Athens as police fought to keep control, while thousands of peaceful protesters braved the clashes and remained on the square in front of the Greek parliament.
The violence began when some 200 youths hurled themselves at a steel barricade erected outside the parliament building, an AFP reporter said.
A battle later broke out outside a row of luxury hotels on the square and a department store was vandalised as small groups of hooded and masked protesters broke away from the main demonstration.
A presidential guard sentry box was set on fire near the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Greece’s foremost military monument next to parliament, before police moved in to clear the area.
The attackers also pelted police with broken masonry and refuse littering the city’s streets from a two-week strike by municipal garbage collectors, and smashed a police sentry box near the finance ministry.
Striking taxi owners in another part of the protest who set fire to garbage bins were also sprayed with tear gas and retaliated by throwing bottles at police.
Officers were also attacked in the second city of Thessaloniki where the government’s regional headquarters was assaulted by a group of 100 protesters throwing firebombs.
The bulk of demonstrators in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion and other cities were peaceful despite boiling anger against the new wave of cuts imposed on a country already slogging through nearly two years of belt-tightening.
“I can either pay my taxes or feed my children, I cannot do both,” said Sophia Robola, a 35-year-old woman employed at a store shutter company.
A hundred of her colleagues were recently fired and she has not been paid in four months, she told AFP.
State statistics this week showed unemployment climbing to 16.5 percent in Greece during a deepening recession. Unions say the real figure is much higher, and will hit 26 percent next year.
The new austerity bill introduces collective wage amendments, major tax break cuts, a new civil service salary system and temporary layoffs for thousands of public sector staff.
More protests are scheduled for Thursday, when leftist and Communist unions plan to encircle parliament.



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