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Europe

Thousands rally as strike enters second day

Video by Nathalie SAVARICAS

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-10-20

Thousands of protesters turned out again on Thursday as a 48-hour general strike entered its second day. At least one man died during police clashes outside parliament on Wednesday as lawmakers gave initial approval to new austerity measures.

AFP - A man injured in Greek anti-austerity protests died Wednesday, media reports said, as hundreds of Communist unionists battled anarchists throwing firebombs for control of a key Athens square.

At least 16 people were hurt in the violence in Syntagma square outside the parliament building, most of them suffering head injuries from stones, firebombs and other missiles, the health ministry said.

As tens of thousands joined anti-austerity demonstrations on the second day of a general strike, Skai television broadcast images of a captured Communist being beaten by dozens of assailants in the square.

IN DEPTH

"The ambulance service has been notified to pick up a wounded person who needs to be hospitalised," a health ministry source told AFP.

Greek media said later a middle-aged man had died of head injuries in hospital.

Masked youths attacked with firebombs hundreds of Communist unionists tasked with maintaining order during the Athens demonstration, which capped a 48-hour general strike called by unions against the government's economic policies.

The communists counter-charged and pushed the attackers back, and the two sides began throwing stones at each other with the police initially keeping back.

Squads of riot police, who did not immediately step in, later advanced to reclaim the square firing stun grenades and tear gas.

Thousands of protesters remained in front of parliament after the clash.

"We are staying until the vote is held and then Athens can burn," a unionist manning the Communist security cordon said prior to the incident.

"We are not going to allow the demonstration to be hijacked by a few hundred hoodies," he said.

Several hundred communist demonstrators chanted "the people, the people, you can, you can, don't give in".

The communist Pame union said in a statement "forces opposed to the people's and workers' movement tried to provoke the huge rally outside parliament".

"Pame, the (other) unions and the workers reacted decisively to this provocation. They must know that the people's and workers' movement has the strength and experience to cut their hands off," Pame said in a statement.

Communist party secretary general Aleka Papariga deplored "deadly attacks that have nothing to do with ideology".

Police initially said that some 35,000 people were out in the streets by late morning, an estimate later revised to 50,000.

There were no estimates yet from the unions which had called the protests.

The streets around parliament had also turned into a battle zone on Wednesday after clashes erupted between protesters and riot police, leaving at least 45 people injured and seeing widespread vandalism to stores, banks and hotels in central Athens.

The assailants had thrown firebombs, street railings, paint and a hail of stones hacked off buildings at police who responded with heavy discharges of tear gas that blanketed the heart of the city.

Police on Wednesday arrested five people over the violence which broke out on the sidelines of the giant demonstration of 70,000 people according to the authorities, the largest seen since the start of Greece's debt crisis. Unions put the participation at 200,000.

Some 125,000 people overall had marched in Greek cities on Wednesday according to the authorities.

The government has repeatedly warned that failure to pass the legislation ahead of an EU crisis summit on Sunday would prompt Greece's peers to block the release of loans and cause a payments freeze.

Date created : 2011-10-20

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