Clashes in Athens after peaceful rally marking uprising

Protest commemorating 1973 student uprising against military rule followed by violence as masked youth attack police.

Protesters shout slogans in front of the US embassy in Athens during the annual November 17 demonstration [Simela Pantzartzi/EPA]
Protesters shout slogans in front of the US embassy in Athens during the annual November 17 demonstration [Simela Pantzartzi/EPA]

A group of youth protesters has clashed with police in Athens, Greek officials have said, in a day where thousands of peaceful demonstrators took to the streets to mark the anniversary of the 1973 uprising that helped bring down Greece’s military rule.

The violence erupted late on Tuesday around Exarchia Square, a central Athens neighbourhood popular with leftists and anarchists, after the end of the annual demonstration in commemoration of an uprising that sparked Greece’s return to democracy, police said.

“Some 200 people from the anti-establishment bloc entered Exarchia and started throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at the police officers,” a police spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

So far, five people have been arrested, the spokesperson said, adding that three were arrested for assaulting officers and two for looting.

Images posted on social media showed rubbish containers on fire, while Greek media reported that police responded with stun grenades and tear gas.

Clashes between masked youths and police have long been a common occurrence in the Greek capital on November 17 each year, as protesters rally to the US embassy to denounce the role the US intelligence agents played in the military dictatorship.

Peaceful protests

Earlier on Tuesday, some 16,000 people took part in largely peaceful demonstrations in Athens, with an additional 12,000 in Greece’s second city Thessaloniki, police said.

“The revolts are not for the museums,” one banner read, “they live in the struggles of the youth and the people.”

Many other banners and slogans denounced the European Union and IMF, Greece’s creditors which have imposed painful austerity measures on the country as it grapples with a years-long debt crisis.

Thousands of police were deployed to secure the protests, and traffic in Athens was diverted from the city centre as two separate processions marched through the capital with many making their way to the US embassy.

Though the protests were largely peaceful, minor incidents were recorded when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the left-wing Syriza  party, and other Greek leaders laid a wreath at a monument to the victims of  the 1973 crackdown.

In particular, several objects were thrown by demonstrators in protest over austerity measures in place in Greece.

Agreement reached

The demonstrations came as Greece announced on Tuesday it has struck a deal with its international creditors to unblock some 12 billion euros in much-needed bailout loans.

“We have reached agreement on everything, including the 48 additional measures” that should allow the $12.8bn to be paid out on Friday, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos told reporters after marathon

The agreement covers streamlining home foreclosures, which the government was reluctant to accept in order to ensure a safety net for more vulnerable households.

A Greek government source told the AFP news agency the compromise reached will protect around 60 percent of indebted households from having their primary residence seized.

The Greek government had sought to protect more than 70 percent of families at risk of losing their homes, while creditors had initially been willing to exclude no more than 20 percent from seizure.

With reporting by Teo Kermeliotis  @Teo_Kermeliotis

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera


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