Clashes erupt at Greek protest crises

Police fired tear gas and clashed
with youths as tens of thousands protested in Athens, Thessaloniki and other
main Greek cities against austerity measures to tame a public debt crisis.

The clash began in Athens after a
group of 50 young demonstrators were seen trying to approach a row of luxury
hotels on central Syntagma Square.

As police fired tear gas to push
them back, another 250 people according to authorities broke apart from the main
body of demonstrators to throw stones and a few firebombs at officers, as the
protest began to melt away in disarray.

Two photographers were injured in
the process and three people arrested. Some 20 shops in the surrounding area
had their windows smashed, police said.

The demonstrations drawing around
27,000 people in Athens and 7,000 in the second city of Thessaloniki, according
to police estimates, were held amid a general strike that shut down Greece.

They came as the embattled
Socialist government talks with European and IMF officials on reining in a
runaway deficit and a mountain of debt that has undermined confidence in the
euro.

The General Confederation of Greek
Workers (GSEE), which represents around a million members, said participation
in the strike “was close to 100 per cent in many areas of work”.

Many of those who stayed away from
work joined the demonstrations against the government, which is trying to raise
revenue through new taxes and save money through public sector benefit cuts and
hiring freezes.

Some protesters carried signs
calling on the authorities to “tax the rich” instead and noted that
the strike was also targeting “speculators” after a run against Greek
bonds that has sharply pushed up the country’s borrowing costs.

Others marched with banners
criticising the “plutocracy”.

The general strike is the first to
hit the Socialists after their election in October on an economic salvation
ticket.

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