28 Jun 2011

‘Three injured’ as Athens police clash with protesters

Unconfirmed reports says that three people have been injured in Athens during clashes between police and thousands of protesters demonstrating against austerity measures.

'Three injured in Athens protests' - Reuters

Police officers fired tear gas to repel a group of youngsters throwing sticks, cobblestones and bottles on Tuesday during an otherwise peaceful protest by tens of thousands in the capital’s Syntagma Square. Unverified reports suggest three people were injured during the clashes: two police officers and one civilian.

The protesters brought central Athens to a standstill at the start of a 48-hour strike against the measures demanded by international lenders in exchange for more financial aid.

The rally was peaceful until protesters launched an attack on riot police.

Channel 4 News Foreign Correspondent Jonathan Rugman, in Athens, tweeted: “Greek satellite truck was set alight and the word “roufianoi” (snitches,informers) sprayed along side: a hardcore hate state media.”

He also said that the protests calmed as the day went on, tweeting: “central Athens seems calmer, tho youths armed with stones. Many brought gas masks to be prepared.”

As Greece nears the precipice of bankruptcy, Parliament is due to vote this week on a package of spending cuts, tax increases and privatisations agreed as part of a massive bailout aimed at averting the eurozone’s first default.

Read more in Jonathan Rugman's blog: The view from Athens

But many Greeks feel the measures impose harsh and unjust penalties on ordinary pensioners and workers while sparing the wealthy

Following weeks of protests and rolling strikes, ADEDY, the public sector union representing half a million civil servants, and GSEE, which represents two million private sector workers, are stepping up pressure on deputies before the votes.

Transport and public services were hit, schools shut and many shops and businesses were closed, while the streets of central Athens were virtually deserted.

EU leaders issue warning to Greece

Meanwhile, the EU told Greek lawmakers their country faces immediate default unless they approve the loathed austerity plan. Polls show three-quarters of Greece’s 11 million people oppose the measures.

The EU’s top economic official, Olli Rehn, dismissed reports that Brussels was working on fallback options to keep Greece afloat if the plan was rejected.

“The only way to avoid immediate default is for Parliament to endorse the revised economic programme… They must be approved if the next tranche of financial assistance is to be released,” he said in a statement.

“To those who speculate about other options, let me say this clearly: there is no Plan B to avoid default,” he added.

Read more: How does Greece's bailout affect Britain?