Mass protests in Greece ahead of key vote, European Union summit
ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Black-clad youths throw stones to communists during clashes near the Parliament building in Syntagma square in Athens yesterday. REUTERS photo
Thousands of Greek protestors poured into the streets hours before a key austerity vote yesterday as more grim news battered the eurozone just days ahead of a crunch summit on Europe’s debt crisis.
Police fired tear gas as clashes broke out with hooded protesters on the sidelines of a rally in central Syntagma Square, where at least 70,000 people gathered according to the authorities on the second day of a general strike that has crippled the public sector and much of the country. Unions put the participation at 200,000.
Demonstrators were planning to encircle parliament where lawmakers were to hold the final vote on the bill that introduces collective wage amendments, major tax break cuts, a new civil service salary system and temporary layoffs for thousands of public sector staff.
The government says the bill is needed to avert a public debt default, but to people in the streets the measures mean a further belt-tightening in a country that has been mired in recession for months.
“I am a pensioner and they are reducing the already reduced pensions,” Georgia Tardeli told AFP. “The worst is the prospects this country has with the youth. The unemployment, the lack of goals. The lack of prospects and hope.”
Clashes broke out with hooded protesters on the sidelines of the demonstrations. Television footage also showed masked youths attacking with firebombs hundreds of Communist unionists tasked with maintaining order during the demonstration. The Communists counter-charged and pushed the attackers back. At least one person was injured as police arrested five.