Youths clash with police

Dozens of masked youths clashed with police at a union protest Tuesday in Athens during the country’s fifth general strike this year against the cash-strapped government’s planned pension and labour reforms.

Riot policemen detain a suspected rioter during clashes at a union protest in Athens on Tuesday

Riot policemen detain a suspected rioter during clashes at a union protest in Athens on Tuesday

BATHENS — Dozens of masked youths clashed with police at a union protest Tuesday in Athens during the country’s fifth general strike this year against the cash-strapped government’s planned pension and labour reforms.

Riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse troublemakers who threw chunks of marble smashed off metro station entrances and set rubbish bins on fire. Running clashes continued along a major avenue — lined with shuttered shops and banks — as rioters armed with wooden clubs made repeated sallies against police.

Seven policemen were injured in the clashes, and 13 demonstrators were detained, six of whom were arrested, police said. Riot police chased demonstrators into a main subway station, and an AP photographer saw police detain one young man in a subway car, spraying him with pepper spray.

Demonstrators smashed bus stops and phone booths, and broke windows at three shops and two bank branches. The demonstration ended after a few hours, and rioters melted away toward the central Exarcheia district — a traditional anarchist hangout.

However, Tuesday’s clashes were far more muted than the riots that erupted during a previous general strike on May 5, when three people died after becoming trapped in a bank torched by rioters.

The violence came as some 10,000 people took part in a demonstration organized by the country’s two main labour unions and fringe left-wing groups. An earlier separate march by some 6,000 members of the Communist Party-backed PAME union ended peacefully.

An estimated 7,000 people took part in two separate, peaceful protests in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Tuesday’s strike shut down public services, disrupted transport, left hospitals operating on emergency staff and pulled all news broadcasts off the air. The country’s airports, however, remained open, and international flights were operating normally although nearly 100 domestic flights were cancelled.

Unions fiercely oppose draft legislation submitted to parliament last week that would increase retirement ages and make it cheaper for companies to fire workers. The measures — which include raising women’s retirement age to 65 to match those of men and require 40 years of social security contributions for a full pension — are aimed at fixing the country’s debt crisis, which has shaken the entire euro zone.

“They’ve declared war on you, fight back!” PAME demonstrators chanted as they walked down a major avenue in the centre of the capital.

Greece is caught in a major debt and deficit crisis; it avoided bankruptcy last month only after receiving the first installment of a C110 billion ($136 billion) emergency loan package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

In return, Athens passed painful austerity measures, cutting pensions and salaries and raising consumer taxes, and is now pushing through labour and social security reforms.

A parliamentary committee started discussing the proposed reforms late Tuesday, in a debate expected to last more than a week. Despite opposition from several of its own lawmakers, the centre-left government — which holds a seven-seat majority in the 300-member house — is expected to win the final vote.

Tension mounted once more in the country’s main port of Piraeus early Tuesday morning, where hundreds of PAME demonstrators attempted to prevent tourists and locals from boarding ferries to Aegean islands, even though a court had declared seamen’s participation in the strike illegal.

“They want to put us in a straitjacket so we work for free all our lives so that some can have their wealth and get very rich at our expense,” said Sotiris Poulikogiannis, a protester in Piraeus. “We don’t accept this. Day by day we’ll grow stronger and more aware of how to overturn this situation.”

The Civil Protection Ministry said all ships scheduled to leave in the morning did set sail, with about 350 passengers. However, about 50-100 people didn’t manage to board their ferries as strikers prevented them from entering the port. Authorities said their tickets would also be valid Wednesday.

Another four ships that were to sail for Crete and the Cycladic islands in the early afternoon had informed passengers that they would depart at midnight, the ministry said.

A similar strike by two seamen’s unions last week — which was also declared illegal — left thousands of travellers stranded in Piraeus for a day. Shipping companies and officials in Greece’s vital tourism industry strongly criticized the government for not taking action to stop the strikers.

————

Associated Press Television crews and photographers in Piraeus and Athens, and AP writer Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
The Red Deer Rebels will have three new assistant coaches when the WHL regular season starts on Friday. Brad Flynn (left), will be on the bench alongside fellow assistant Ryan Colville (right) head coach Brent Sutter (middle). (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Sutter steps down as Red Deer Rebels head coach

Red Deer Rebels Owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter has stepped… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney announced $200 million more money that will benefit seniors living in continuing care on Wednesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program expanding

Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program will expand to as many as… Continue reading

Parents and students learned Tuesday what the coming school year will look like. It's pretty much back to business as usual, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. School precautions include frequent cleaning, keeping students in the same groups where possible, planning the school day to allow for physical distancing and staying home when sick. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s largest school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

CALGARY — Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches a speaker appear by videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 9, 2021. Grassroots Liberals have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling on the federal government to develop and implement a universal basic income — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apparent lack of enthusiasm for the idea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau winds up Liberal convention with election campaign-style speech

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau wound up a three-day Liberal convention Saturday with… Continue reading

Team Canada skip Brendan Bottcher makes a shot against Italy at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, April 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Men’s world curling championship in Calgary in COVID limbo

CALGARY — The men’s world curling championship in Calgary remained suspended Saturday… Continue reading

Pipes intended for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline are shown in Gascoyne, N.D. on Wednesday April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Non-profit Quebec law centre to aid environmental group targeted by Alberta oil firm

QUEBEC — The Quebec Environmental Law Centre is coming to the aid… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives cite empathy, relationships as ways to help expand their movement

OTTAWA — Conservatives should show empathy with Black residents who say they’ve… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. New Democrats are reconvening for the second day of a three-day policy convention as they look to push past the glitches of the virtual event's opening sessions and rally around keynote speaker John Horgan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats reconvene as hiccups, frustrations plague national policy convention

OTTAWA — New Democrats reconvened Saturday for the second day of a… Continue reading

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a joint statement with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his commitment to the Republican Party — and raise the possibility that someone else will be the GOP's next presidential nominee — in a closed-door speech to donors Saturday night, April 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Trump in 2024? He says only that ‘a Republican’ will win

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his… Continue reading

A cruise ship sits docked waiting for passengers to be evacuated in Kingstown, on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Friday, April 9, 2021 due to the eruption of La Soufriere volcano. (AP Photo/Orvil Samuel)
Ash-covered St. Vincent braces for more volcanic eruptions

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — People who ignored an initial warning to evacuate… Continue reading

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Most Read