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Protesters clash with police during austerity vote

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-02-12

An estimated 80,000 people protested outside the Greek parliament building Sunday in Athens, where lawmakers were voting on whether to pass another round of tough austerity measures. Approval would secure the country 130 billion euros in aid.

AFP - Greek police on Sunday fired tear gas at petrol bomb-throwing protesters outside parliament, where tens of thousands had massed in a rally against austerity plans being debated by lawmakers.

Police said some 80,000 protesters had gathered outside the building where debate on the plan imposed by the country's international creditors -- the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank -- was ongoing before a late-night vote.

In the country's second city Thessaloniki, around 20,000 protesters took to the streets to against the austerity package they described as blackmail, which needs to be approved by parliament if Greece is to receive a 130 billion euro ($171 billion) bailout.

The unrest in Athens started when a group on Syntagma square tried to muscle past the police cordon protecting the parliament building.

Riot police retaliated with tear gas grenades, scattering protestors into nearby streets where they hurled rocks and molotov cocktails at the security forces. The clashes went on for over two hours in the city centre.

People wearing masked smashed shop windows along two major avenues while a bank was set on fire, police said.

Six people were injured in the mayhem, according to a health ministry source.

Sunday's protesters included trade unionists, youths with shaven heads waving Greek flags, communist activists and left-wing sympathisers, many of them equipped with gas masks.

Syntagma square was shrouded in a thick cloud of tear gas. One elderly Greek man could be seen among the demonstrators, breathing through a gas mask and wearing swimming goggles.

But while dispersing into nearby streets initially, the crowd soon returned onto the square, with families among the tens of thousands that had gathered.

A man was seen hawking paper masks -- as some form of protection against the tear gas -- as well as Greek flags.


Against the wall of the central bank, the word "Greece" was painted in black and replaced by "Bank of Berlin", alluding to the impression among Greeks that Germany is dictating the painful austerity measures.

"It's not easy to live in these conditions," said 49-year-old engineer Andreas Maragoudakis. "By 2020 we will be the Germans' slaves."

Another protester, Stella Maguina, 33, told AFP: "We are here for our parents and our children, for all those who can't come."

Civil engineer Anastasia Papadaki, 27 said "the measures are not the solutions to the problem as they will not bring growth.

"It's just the international community blackmailing us."

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, opening the debate, stressed the importance of backing the government-approved plan to stave off bankruptcy.

Deputies were not expected to vote on the measure before 2200 GMT.


Date created : 2012-02-12


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