Massive anti-austerity protest ends up in violence in Athens

10:26, June 16, 2011      

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Anti-riot policemen fire tear gas at demonstrators at the Constitution Square in Athens, Greece, June 15, 2011. A new 24-hour nationwide general strike hit Greece Wednesday in protest at further austerity measures planned by the Greek government to counter its acute debt crisis. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

A massive anti-austerity protest organized by Greek labor unions in front of the parliament building broke down in violent clashes Wednesday afternoon, as Prime Minister George Papandreou repeated a plea for national consensus to the painful measures after a meeting with President Karolos Papoulias.

At least six civilians, among them a Greek journalist, and a policeman were slightly injured and 18 hooded youth who pelted rocks and petrol bombs to police units were apprehended, according to police sources.

This happened when the police fired teargas to push troublemakers away from the metallic barriers raised in front of the parliament building.

The clashes marred a peaceful rally of labor unions and so- called indignant protesters of hundreds of thousands demonstrators who joined a nationwide 24-hour general strike against austerity policies currently debated inside the parliament building.

"We have had enough of austerity. It's time you resign," chanted protesters, waving banners.

Over 10,000 policemen are deployed across the city center to prevent protesters from encircling parliament, the Presidential Mansion and the prime minister's office said.

Local media reported many incidents of verbal attacks of protesters against the motorcades of the prime minister and deputies who reached parliament to debate the exit plan to face an acute debt crisis.

The package of further cutbacks on salaries, tax hikes and privatization is seen as a key step for Athens to secure further vital bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund to escape default.

As hooded youth shattered windows of stores close to the parliament building, Papandreou called once again opposition political parties to support the measures during the vote in parliament on June 28.

The ruling party PASOK now holds a 155-member majority in the 300-member assembly after one deputy turned independent on Tuesday. Amidst increasing signs that deputies might vote against the measures under pressure, the prime minister is pushing for a wider political consensus.

Papandreou made a new round of telephone conversations with leaders of political parties represented in parliament on Wednesday amidst rumors of an imminent cabinet reshuffle.

According to Greek media reports, he received negative replies in the conversations.

The main opposition conservative party leader Antonis Samaras is said to have implied he could support the work of a new government under a new prime minister, as long as it will renegotiate the terms of further funding with EU and IMF officials.

Greek journalist unions cancelled their strike to report the developments on Wednesday, as Papandreou is expected to deliver a televised statement later on Wednesday.

Source: Xinhua

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