ATHENS (AFP) – Police fired tear gas near the Greek parliament on Wednesday as clashes broke out with protesters throwing stones and firebombs during a demonstration against austerity measures, an AFP reporter said.
The confrontation occurred near the finance ministry on central Syntagma Square with police seeking to block protesters from approaching the building as thousands marched in Athens and other major cities in this year’s first general strike against wage and pension cuts.
The police operation split the demonstration and the square was covered in clouds of tear gas.
The authorities had mobilised some 5,000 police in Athens for the street protest, bringing in reinforcements from neighbouring towns.
Street protests in Greece are routinely marred by violence and vandalism. Three people died last year when a bank branch was firebombed.
Another seven general strikes and waves of protests were held in Greece last year against the austerity cuts which were imposed in return for a rescue loan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
At least 36,000 people according to police demonstrated on Wednesday in Athens, Thessaloniki and the port of Piraeus to reject economic policies dictated by Greece’s narrow bankruptcy rescue by the EU and the IMF last year.
Union sources put the Athens turnout at over 60,000 people.
Image: Policeman set ablaze in Athens is helped by a colleague. Credit: AFP.