Police estimate more than 100,000 people demonstrated in Athens ahead of today’s Parliament vote on new austerity measures.
ATHENS -A few hundred hooded youths clashed with police in front of the Greek parliament Wednesday as more than a hundred thousand people marched through Athens in protest against the latest round of austerity measures promised to international creditors, Wall Street Journal reported.
Demonstrators hurled projectiles at riot police who stood behind metal barricades blocking the entrance to the parliament building and responded by firing several rounds of teargas to disperse the mob. Other sporadic incidents of violence broke out around the city’s main central square with youths throwing firebombs and firecrackers at police, prompting law enforcers to let off stun grenades.
Bystanders watched the clashes, chanting “We will burn parliament.” It is one of the biggest protest marches seen in Athens in recent years as workers, students and business owners marched in opposition to cutbacks which lawmakers debated for a second day in parliament ahead of a final vote on the bill late Thursday.
Strikers aimed to shut down wide sectors of the country with their action, CNN reported. “Don’t bow your head, it’s time for resistance and struggle,” marchers chanted in Athens as numbers began to swell for a union-backed demonstration. “I’m here for my children and everyone else’s children. Those punks in there have destroyed everyone’s lives,” said former railway worker Diamandis Goufas, 62, pointing at parliament. The 48-hour strike came as parliament prepares to vote today on the latest round of austerity measures, including more tax hikes, pay cuts and job losses, the BBC said. The strike for Wednesday and Thursday was called by the two big unions that cover public and private sector workers. Government departments, businesses, offices and stores have all shut, with small business owners and shopkeepers taking part in strike action for the first time. Air traffic controllers were staging a 12-hour walk-out, with some 150 domestic and international flights cancelled. Trains, buses, taxis and lorries were not operating.
A strike over recent days by rubbish collectors has left uncollected waste piling in the streets. Tourists were turned away from the Acropolis. Hundreds of dock workers have gathered at the main port of Piraeus, while hundreds of prison guards protested outside the justice ministry.
European Union leaders are scrambling to minimize the effect of Greece’s debt on their common currency, the euro. Over the weekend, finance ministers from the world’s largest economies pledged their commitment to take “all necessary actions” to stabilize markets, CNN said.
They aim to keep banks well capitalized so they can weather the effects of any defaults by Greece or other indebted countries like Portugal, Spain, Ireland or Italy.
But there appears to be a split between France and Germany – Europe’s two largest economies – on how to do it. Germany has stressed that individual European states should inject capital into domestic banks that lack sufficient buffers. But analysts say France is opposed to this idea because it could jeopardize the nation’s top-tier credit rating. European leaders are expected to hear concrete details about how the plan might work at a European Council meeting Sunday.