Athens Riot Rage: Protesters Throw Firebombs, Police Shoot Tear Gas

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Thousands of Greeks clash in violent protests with police of parliament in the biggest bank bailout protest since the government took power in June.

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RT – A rally in the Greek capital turned violent when protesters in Syntagma Square lobbed Molotov cocktails at police, who retaliated by firing tear gas at the demonstrators.

Security forces also reportedly used flashbang grenades and pepper spray to push protesters back from the parliament building. According to Greek newspaper Kathimerin, the police had been ordered to orders to refrain from using chemicals against protesters.

It’s as thousands gathered in front of parliament for the country’s biggest anti-austerity protest since the new government came to power.

Clashes erupted in different parts of Athens Syntagma Square, with demonstrators throwing fire bombs at police.

Witnesses reported smoke rising over the square as security forces dispersed most of the protesters. Some remained, and continued the demonstration; others relocated.

Athens police have arrested five protesters so far, local media report. The arrests come after members of the radical leftist party Syriza clashed with riot police in the streets of Panepistimiou and Benaki, in the capital’s downtown district. Police reportedly again used stun grenades to disperse the hooded youths.

The general strike halted transit and other industries nationwide. As many as 350,000 Greeks have poured out into streets across the country, estimates the civil servants union ADEDY.

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Teargas canisters explode beside riot police officers near Syntagma square during a 24-hour labour strike in Athens.(Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)

Thousands of demonstrators also marched through the city of Thessaloniki. Greeks wrote on Twitter that large numbers of protesters are rallying peacefully in the streets.

The protest came after calls by the country’s two largest trade unions, representing half of Greece’s workers, for a 24-hour general strike. In Athens, over 50,000 people took to streets chanting “EU, IMF Out!“. Flights and trains were suspended, shops were shuttered and the hospitals were forced to rely on emergency staffing.

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A demonstrator throws a molotov cocktail to riot police officers near Syntagma square during a 24-hour labour strike in Athens.(Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)

Greece is currently grappling with record unemployment levels, with over 30 percent of the country living below the poverty line.

The Greek government is planning to reduce pensions and increase the retirement age to 67 to cope with the country’s budget crisis.

Two weeks ago, anger over Greece’s new austerity measures spilled into the streets, with thousands protesting the drastic proposed budget cuts.

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Photo by user jamesmatesitv shows petrol bombs hitting ranks of riot police during an anti-austerity rally at Syntagma Square in Athens on September 26, 2012 (Image from Twitter.com)

In Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, youths set fire to debris and burned an EU flag, and then clashed with riot police. Some 2,000 pensioners also marched through Athens to protest the newly introduced pension cuts.

Last February, the country witnessed days of violent clashes in several cities, with police using tear gas and protesters throwing petrol bombs and stones.

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A riot police officer throws a teargas cannister to protestors during clashes near Syntagma square during a 24-hour labour strike in Athens.(Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis)

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Screenshot from AP video

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A demonstrator hurls a stone to riot police officers during clashes near Syntagma square during a 24-hour labour strike in Athens.(Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis)

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Screenshot from AP video

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A riot police officer prepares to throw a teargas cannister to protestors during clashes near Syntagma square during a 24-hour labour strike in Athens.(Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis)

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A riot police officer prepares to throw a teargas cannister to protestors during clashes near Syntagma square during a 24-hour labour strike in Athens.(Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis)

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