- Officers were set alight by exploding bombs as a protest descended into carnage near country’s parliament
- About 500,000 people joined the anti-government rally to demonstrate against new austerity measures in Greece
- Police were seen fighting with protesters in what is thought to be the biggest anti-austerity protest in a year
- Demonstrators set fire to trees and smash paving stones and marble panels with hammers to use as missiles
- Unrest comes 24 hours after violent demonstration in Spain, where protesters clashed with police in Madrid
PUBLISHED:09:03 EST, 26 September 2012| UPDATED:19:46 EST, 26 September 2012
Riot police clashed with hundreds of petrol-bomb hurling protesters in Athens yesterday as anger at austerity measures gripped Greece.
Up to 100,000 took to the capital’s streets during the largest anti-austerity protest seen there in more than a year.
They marched to the Greek parliament chanting ‘EU, IMF Out!’, on the day of a general strike against a new round of cuts demanded by foreign lenders.
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Tear gas and pepper spray was used by riot police against several hundred demonstrators after the violence broke out near the country’s parliament
A fire bomb explodes behind a riot police squad. About 50,000 people joined the union-organised march in central Athens, held during a general strike against new austerity measures planned in the crisis-hit country
As the rally ended, youths dressed in black threw stones, chunks of marble, petrol bombs and bottles at riot police, who responded with tear gas and pepper spray.
Several policemen were seen on fire as the battles continued, but it is thought that none was seriously injured.
Police chased the protesters through Syntagma Square in front of parliament as helicopters clattered overhead.
Smoke rose from small blazes in the streets. One group of hooded youths could be seen setting trees on fire in the National Gardens, causing flames and black smoke to fill the skyline above parliament. About 120 people were detained.
Dina Kokou, a 54-year-old teacher and mother of four who lives on £800 a month, said: ‘We can’t take it any more – we are bleeding. We can’t raise our children like this. These tax increases and wage cuts are killing us.’
Scenes of carnage: Everyone from shopkeepers and pharmacists to teachers, customs workers and car mechanics joined the demonstration, seen as a test of public tolerance for more hardship after two years of harsh spending cuts and tax hikes
Riot police prepare to throw a tear gas cannister at protesters, left, and a demonstrator hurls a Molotov cocktail in the direction of officers, right, during clashes
The riots came less than 24 hours after similar disturbances in Spain where police fired rubber bullets at protesters in Madrid, leaving some injured. Some demonstrators broke down barricades and threw rocks and bottles.
There was more violence during further anti-austerity protests in the Spanish capital yesterday.
In Athens, protesters marched to try to force the government to reject demands by the country’s international lenders for additional cuts to salaries, pensions and benefits amounting to £9billion in savings over the next two years, along with another £1.5billion in taxes.
Police attempt to disperse protesters during a massive protest march, shortly before the violence broke out near the country’s parliament
Demonstrators run as they clash with riot officers. About 3,000 police – twice the number usually deployed – stood guard in the centre of Athens
Greece has promised the spending cuts and tax increases in an effort to secure its next tranche of aid from the EU and IMF.
The 24-hour nationwide strike, called by the two biggest unions representing two million workers, is the first test of whether prime minister Antonis Samaras can stand his ground.
Police estimated the demonstration was the largest since a May 2011 protest, and among the biggest since near-bankrupt Greece first resorted to aid from international lenders in 2010 – which has come at the price of painful austerity cuts.
Ships stayed docked, museums and monuments were shut to visitors and air traffic controllers walked off the job for a three-hour stoppage.
A baton-wielding riot policeman hits out at retreating protesters, left. A fire bomb explodes among officers, right, during clashes in the city
Train services and flights were suspended, public offices and shops were shut, and hospitals worked on skeleton staff.
In another significant move towards EU ‘fiscal union’, eurozone leaders are to discuss establishing a central budget designed to help weak economies within the single currency area. It would be funded by rerouting a slice of national taxes collected by eurozone members to Brussels.
The UK, which is not a member of the euro, will not contribute to the fund. But it will raise concerns that other countries are pushing ahead with integration that could hamper Britain’s interests, and it could strengthen Tory Eurosceptics’ desire to see powers ‘repatriated’ from Brussels. Yesterday it emerged that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has asked Tony Blair, Lord Mandelson and David Miliband for advice about how the UK should respond to ever-closer union.