Video: Athens in flames as protests flare over crippling cuts and job losses
Historic cinemas, cafes and shops went up in flames in central Athens last night as masked protesters fought Greek police outside parliament.
As parliament voted on a new €130bn bailout to save Greece from a messy bankruptcy, buildings were set ablaze and huge plumes of smoke rose in the night sky.
The air over Syntagma Square outside parliament was thick with tear gas as riot police fought running battles with youths who smashed marble balustrades and hurled stones and petrol bombs.
Fighting raged for hours and protesters threw home-made bombs made from gas canisters as riot police advanced across the square on the crowds, firing tear gas and stun grenades.
Loud booms from the protests could be heard inside parliament.
"Tear gas has reached the parliament chamber," said leftist lawmaker Panagiotis Lafazanis.
On the streets many businesses were ablaze, including the neo-classical home to the Attikon cinema dating from 1870, and a building housing the Asty, an underground cinema used by the Gestapo during World War Two as a torture chamber.
TV footage showed a three-storey corner building completely engulfed in flames with firefighters trying to douse the blaze.
The clashes erupted after more than 100,000 demonstrators chanting "thieves, thieves" marched to the parliament to protest against drastic austerity cuts passed last night that will result in the sacking of 150,000 civil servants and a 22pc reduction to the minimum wage.
The large crowds outside parliament initially scattered when violence broke out, but many reassembled as demonstrators urged unity.
The street fights spilled into the popular shopping street of Ermou, while policemen chased youths in the area near parliament. Garbage bins were set alight and the windows of storefronts were smashed.
Authorities said several protesters and police were injured, while a number of suspected rioters were detained.
The mood was also explosive inside the legislative assembly as lawmakers fiercely debated a bailout package to help save Greece from a disorderly bankruptcy and a potential exit from the eurozone.
One communist MP hurled the document including the second loan agreement at Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who exhorted lawmakers to approve the bill before markets opened this morning. On the streets, Anastasis Kalaitzis, an employee for a US business firm, said: "Greece and corruption anger me, but we need to find another formula than the current one to pay back all these loans.
"I'm here to oppose this memorandum because it will seal the fate of our children who will live in insecurity and fear," he added, as he held his two-year-old daughter in his arms.
Homeless citizen Vagelis Mesitis, his wife and his seven-year-old daughter also attended the rally. His banner read in Greek: "An hour of freedom is better than slavery, poverty, cold and hunger."
Mr Mesitis pays a fee every three months to make use of the running water in the warehouse that belongs to the town hall of Aigaleo.
"I represent the future of Greece and people need to know this," he said. "I'm not here for our MPs as they just take orders. But the people of Europe need to know they'll become like us."
Protests were also held in Greece's second largest city of Thessaloniki as politicians debated the measures.
According to latest data from the European statistics office, one out of three Greeks are now living under the poverty line.
The number of unemployed, meanwhile, exceeds one million as Greece struggles to recover. That equates to an eye-watering unemployment rate of nearly 21pc. And the deeper that you dig into the figures, the worse it appears. Youth unemployment, for example, stands at 48pc. (© Independent News Service)