Thursday 27 April 2017

Greece crisis: protesters throw petrol bombs in clashes with police at anti-austerity march

Riot police stand amongst the flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-establishment demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Riot police stand amongst the flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-establishment demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Riot police stand amongst the flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-austerity demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Riot police stand amongst the flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-establishment demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Riot police run past flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-establishment demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Riot police stand amongst the flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-establishment demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
The Greek flag atop the Parliament is seen through a banner held by a protester during an anti-austerity rally organized by the country's biggest public sector union ADEDY in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Greek Presidential guards conduct their ceremonial march past a banner held by protesters during an anti-austerity rally organized by the country's biggest public sector union ADEDY in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Protesters gather in front of the Greek Parliament during an anti-austerity rally organized by the country's biggest public sector union ADEDY in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Anti-Euro protesters march through the streets during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Anti-Euro protesters march through the streets during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Anti-Euro protesters march through the streets during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Vassilis Triandafyllou and Karolina Tagaris

Greek anti-establishment protesters threw dozens of petrol bombs at police in front of parliament on Wednesday ahead of a key vote on a bailout deal, in some of the most serious violence in over two years.

Police responded with tear gas, sending hundreds of people fleeing in central Syntagma Square.

Earlier, thousands took to the streets of Athens in a series of otherwise peaceful marches during the day to protest against the new bailout deal that saved Greece from bankruptcy but will impose more reforms on a country already deep in crisis.

Once a common sight in protest marches in Greece, clashes with police had been very rare since the leftist Syriza party came to power in January.

Just before the clashes, protesters marched waving banners reading "Cancel the bailout!" and "No to the policies of the EU, the ECB and the IMF."

Pharmacists pulled down their shutters across Greece and civil servants walked off their jobs in protest in a 24-hour strike against reforms.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos reacts during a parliamentary session in Athens, Greece July 15, 2015. A lot of the measures in a deal struck with Greece's lenders will have a recessionary effect but removing the prospect of a
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos reacts during a parliamentary session in Athens, Greece July 15, 2015. A lot of the measures in a deal struck with Greece's lenders will have a recessionary effect but removing the prospect of a "Grexit" will help offset their impact and bring in investments, Tsakalotos said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Demonstrators gather near the Greek Parliament during a rally against the government's agreement with its creditors in Athens, in central Athens, Tuesday, July 14, 2015. The eurozone's top official says it's not easy to find a way to get Greece a short-term cash infusion that will help it meet upcoming debt repayments. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, second right, speaks with Luxembourg's Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna , right, and other ministers during a meeting of EU finance ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. British Treasury chief George Osborne arrived to a EU meeting of finance minister with a clear message, don't expect Britain, which is not part of the euro, to pay for any of Greece's rescue money. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
People queue for free food in the Greek capital
Foreign media broadcast from the balconies of a hotel on main Constitution (Syntagma) square in Athens, Greece July 13, 2015. Euro zone leaders made Greece surrender much of its sovereignty to outside supervision on Monday in return for agreeing to talks on an 86 billion euros bailout to keep the near-bankrupt country in the single currency. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People walk past wallets designed as Euro banknotes displayed outside a kiosk in central Athens, Tuesday, July 14, 2015. The eurozone's top official says it's not easy to find a way to get Greece a short-term cash infusion that will help it meet upcoming debt repayments. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A man walks by a mural in Athens, Greece July 14, 2015, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces a showdown with rebels in his own party furious at his capitulation to German demands for one of the most sweeping austerity packages ever demanded of a euro zone government. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Migrants from Syria rest after crossing illegaly from Serbia to Hungary, near Morahalom, Hungary July 14, 2015. Hungary started building a fence along its border with Serbia to try to stop illegal migrants entering from the south, a barrier which German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said makes "no sense". Tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, use the Balkans route to get into the European Union, passing from Greece to Macedonia and Serbia and then to the EU's visa-free Schengen zone that starts in Hungary. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh
A pensioner wearing an oxygen line tries to enter a crowded National Bank branch to get her pension in Thessaloniki
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos attends a parliamentary session in Athens
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos arrives for a ruling Syriza party political committee meeting at the party's headquarters in Athens, Greece July 14, 2015. Greece's parliament will pass legislation required for a new financial aid package from Europe's rescue fund despite dissenting views from some ruling party deputies, the country's interior minister said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

"Further austerity is unacceptable," said Stavros Koutsioubelis, a spokesman for the ADEDY public sector union, urging lawmakers to reject the deal.

Read more: Greece crisis: a glossary of eurozone crisis jargon

Opposition on the streets has so far been limited, however, and an opinion poll published on Tuesday suggested that more than 70 percent of people wanted parliament to approve the bailout.

Lawmakers are due to vote after midnight on the raft of tax hikes and pension reforms that are hard to accept for many in a country where unemployment has jumped above 25 percent and the economy has shrunk by a quarter in the course of two previous bailouts.

"The bailout to be voted today is against the people, it is against the workers. It is by far the most barbaric - even worse than the two previous ones which were also barbaric," 19-year-old protester Dimitris said.

Read more: Greece crisis: European Commission says reprofiling of debt possible but no write-off

A woman leaves a polling booth to cast her ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A woman leaves a polling booth to cast her ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A bather leaps from a rock into the sea on the coast south west of Athens, Greece, on Monday, June 15, 2015. The tourism industry contributes 17 percent to an ever-contracting economy. Photographer: Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg
Performers dressed as ancient Greek warriors stand in front of the parliament building in Athens. Photo: REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Athens
A pensioner is helped by a bank manager after collapsing while waiting along with dozens of other pensioners outside a National Bank in Athens, Greece, July 2, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
As Greece endured another day of crisis and uncertainty, Mr Kenny insisted that Ireland is a country that will not return to the boom and bust-type model of the past
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks with French President Francois Hollande after their bilateral meeting during a Eurozone emergency summit on Greece in Brussels, Belgium, June 22, 2015. REUTERS/John Thys/Pool
Protesters gather in front of the Greek parliament in Athens last night, carrying banners calling for a No vote in the forthcoming referendum on bailout conditions set by the country’s creditors
Syrian refugees walk through a field near the village of Idomeni at the Greek-Macedonian border, July 14, 2015. The United Nations refugee agency said that Greece urgently needed help to cope with 1,000 migrants arriving each day and called on the European Union (EU) to step in before the humanitarian situation deteriorates further. More than 77,000 people have arrived by sea to Greece so far this year, more than 60 percent of them Syrians, with others fleeing Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia, it said. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis
Outgoing Greek Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis leaves on his motorcycle with his wife Danai after his resignation at the ministry of Finance in downtown Athens this week
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde (back C) attend an euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels earlier this week. Photo: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Some protesters had no illusions about what the rallies could achieve. "The demonstration is the appropriate way, we don't expect it will change anything of course," said Pepi Filippidi, 42, a public sector employee. "But what else can we do, put bombs and blow ourselves up?"

Not all are backing the protest rallies, whose turnout pale in comparison to the tens of thousands of the first years of the crisis.

"The measures should be adopted by parliament so that stability can come back," said 30-year-old cook Yannis Zafiriadis, who was waiting to withdraw money at an ATM as protesters marched by.

"We have to give Tsipras the chance to complete the four years we elected him to govern for. Only afterwards should he be judged, on completion."

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called the country's president ahead of Wednesday's parliamentary vote on austerity measures demanded by creditors in return for financial aid, Mega TV said, without providing details of their conversation.

An official from President Prokopis Pavlopoulos's office said he could not confirm whether the call took place.

Tsipras told parliamentarians in his leftwing Syriza party earlier on Wednesday that it would be difficult for him to remain in office if he did not have their support in the vote, a government official said.

A group of 30 to 40 dissenters in Tsipras's party are expected to vote against the legislation.

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