Scuffles break out in Athens during protests over austerity measures

14:18, May 12, 2011      

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Scuffles between dozens of youths and anti-riot police broke out in central Athens on Wednesday during a 40,000 strong march to protest the Greek government's harsh austerity measures.

Hooded youths who mingled with the thousands of peaceful protesters tossed rocks and gasoline bombs at police in front of the parliament building. Anti-riot police responded with tear gas to disperse the crowd.

No injuries were reported. But an Associated Press reporter saw at least three demonstrators injured and another five detained by police, while dozens of black-clad anarchists smashed bus stops, set rubbish bins on fire and smashed a shop window.

The clashes came during a 24-hour general strike, the second of the year, that brought most public services to a halt, suspended all train and ferry services, grounded flights for four hours and disrupted public transportation.

Police deployed across the center of Athens because of violence at previous rallies. On May 5, 2010, three clerks died when their bank branch near the parliament was torched by rioters.

Labor unions called Wednesday's strike to protest the harsh austerity measures and structural reforms introduced to tackle the debt crisis that hit Greece in late 2009.

"The only people paying the bill are salary earners, pensions and above all the unemployed," said Yiannis Panagopoulos, head of the country's largest union, the GSEE. "The well-off, who are the main people to blame for the crisis, continue to drink the health of the mugs."

Presently, Greece is shielded from insolvency by a 110 billion euro (158 billion U.S. dollar) package of rescue loans in a 2010-2013 program from its European Union partners and International Monetary Fund.

Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
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