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Clashes erupt as Greeks protest against austerity
Clashes erupted in the heart of the Greek capital on Wednesday after at least 50,000 people marched on the parliament to protest against billions of euros in new austerity cuts. The demonstration was one of the biggest in Greece for over a year.
Clashes broke out in central Athens on Wednesday after at least 50,000 people took to the streets of the Greek capital for the largest anti-austerity demonstration the country has seen in over a year.
Although the demonstration was largely peaceful throughout the morning, the atmosphere degenerated after the march hit the Greek parliament, with the angry crowd shouting, “EU, IMF out!” A group of youths dressed in black hurled petrol bombs and bottles at police, sending streaks of flames flying through the streets. Police forces responded with several rounds of teargas, filling the air with clouds of smoke.
Barricade around parliament
Police formed a barricade around the Greek parliament, with officers blocking a pensioner who tried to move towards Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's office holding a banner with pictures of the Greek PM under the title: "The biggest traitor in Greek history".
"We can't take it anymore - we are bleeding. We can't raise our children like this," Dina Kokou, a 54-year-old teacher and mother of four who lives on 1,000 euros a month, told Reuters.
"These tax hikes and wage cuts are killing us."
The protests were part of a larger nationwide strike called by trade unions against nearly 12 billion euros of salary, pension and welfare cuts proposed by the government and demanded by its EU and IMF lenders.
3,000 police officers
In preparation for the protests, authorities deployed an estimated 3,000 police – twice as many as usual.
“[Protesters were] very angry at the situation and how it has really spiraled out of control… really deteriorated the quality of life of ordinary Greeks,” said FRANCE 24’s Nathalie Savaricas, who was reporting from the Greek capital Athens.
“We’ve been seeing families rummage through garbage bins here. The other day I saw a man taking a cup of coffee out of a garbage bin and having a sip and then putting it back,” Savaricas added.
The demonstrations come amid growing public anger against austerity measures in a number of crisis-hit countries in Europe. Earlier in the week, thousands gathered outside of the Spanish parliament in Madrid, only to be forced back by police using batons.
But with Greece facing certain bankruptcy and a potential euro zone exit without further aid, Samaras's government has little choice but to push through the unpopular measures.
Officials from Greece and the "troika" of European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund told Reuters that tensions among them have increased of late with the IMF playing hardball. The IMF has been pushing to restructure the debt Athens owes to public-sector foreign creditors, whereas EU leaders prefer to give Greece more time to meet the terms of its bailout.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)