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live 40 thousand protesters in the first general strike of 2013

20 February 2013 / 16:02:48  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Sporadic clashes around the building of the University of Athens marked the first general strike of the year. Shortly after the formation of anarchists passed by the parliament and headed down Panepistimiou Street the first clashes started, which the riot police forces repelled with tear gas.

There followed several attacks both on Panepistimiou and Stadiou streets. Gradually, they moved to the Exarcheia neighbourhood and ended shortly afterwards.

According to the police, about 40 thousand people participated in the strike organized by the major trade unions GSEE and ADEDY. They gathered in the square in front of Pedion tou Areos park whereas the members and sympathizers of the Communist trade union PAME had gathered in Omonia Square half an hour earlier. The supporters of the main opposition party SYRIZA gathered at the Archaeological Museum on Patission Street.
As usual, the first who arrived at Syntagma Square were the participants in the separate procession of PAME. They were holding red flags, shouting slogans against the government and its economic policy and calling for "irreconcilability and disobedience to the policy of capital".

The participants went down the street past the central hotels of Athens, passed by the parliament and headed down. When their procession ended, dozens of members of the riot police forces blocked the street and the participants in the processions of the trade unions and SYRIZA passed across the square and then went down Panepistimiou Street.

The main slogans were against the government and the budget cuts. Supporters of the extreme left party ANTARSIA erected large banners against the decision of the Supreme Court to annul the law on the acquiring of Greek citizenship, which deprives immigrants’ children born in Greece of the opportunity to become legal citizens of the country.

There were more colourful protesters too. A pensioner arrived at Syntagma on a motorcycle, on which he had put a black flag, a protest poster and crutches. He had put a chain around his neck and legs to show how he felt by the fact "that the country is run by a junta". He then complained of his cut pension and the deteriorating health services.

A little later, another colourful protester decided to break through the police cordon and urged others to follow him. The inscription on his poster read, "Politicians are growing rich while impoverishing the country and the citizens. We’ve had enough sleeping". With these words, he started pushing the shields of policemen amid the cheers of a group of protesters. The police did not repel him and let him go, and he set off to the top of the square, where he repeated the same small protest in front of the other police cordon.

In parallel, a guillotine with the words "Dodgers, here and now" appeared on Syntagma apparently aimed at the politicians who had been threatened with gallows by the Discontented too.

The police had taken draconian measures to thwart any attempt to create tension. At least 20 police buses had been located around the entrance of the parliament from early in the morning. An iron barrier was installed along Vassilis Sofias Avenue and there were fire engines in the surrounding streets. A police helicopter was hovering in the skies above Athens all the time. Evangelismos, Syntagma, Panepistimio and Acropolis underground stations were closed by order of the police.

The strike procession ended in the early afternoon and the street traffic was restored.

Tags: SocietyStrikeProcessionClashes
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