Greek police clash with anti-austerity protesters


ATHENS – Greek police clashed with protesters on Wednesday as around 100,000 workers, pensioners and students marched to parliament in protest at 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.
Public and private sector employees’ 24-hour strike grounded flights, shut down schools and paralysed public transport in this year’s first nationwide walkout against cost cuts. In the biggest march since December 2008 riots brought the country to a standstill for weeks, about 100,000 Greeks marched through the streets of Athens chanting “We are not paying” and “No sacrifice for plutocracy”.
In several streets across the city, police fired teargas to disperse demonstrators hurling stones and plastic bottles. Shops barricaded their windows and hotels in central Athens locked up. Police said two policemen and five civilians were injured, including one journalist slightly hurt by a petrol bomb. Four protesters were detained. Protesters broke marble sidewalks 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. “We’ve reached our limits! We can’t make ends meet,” said 60-year-old Yannis Tsourounakis, who has three children and is unemployed. “Our future is a nightmare if we don’t overturn these policies.” The Socialist government cut salaries and pensions and raised taxes last year despite repeated strikes, 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 this month a fresh, 15-billion-euro tranche of the aid, but set a tougher target for privatisation proceeds and called for more structural reforms.