Thousands protest against Greek right-wing government
(AFP) – 3 days ago
THESSALONIKI , Greece — More than 10,000 people protested against the conservative government in northern Greece Saturday as a group of youths clashed with police and threw petrol bombs at two banks.
The protests were held in Greece's second city of Thessaloniki two days after Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis called early elections for October 4, ending weeks of speculation about the future of his hard-pressed government amid tough economic times.
Some 2,500 police officers were mobilised to prevent any disburbances at three separate rallies organised by unions and some far-left groups.
Police used tear gas and arrested 20 youths at a far-left protest that had gathered 1,500 people. Two banks were damaged by Molotov cocktails while three bank cash machines were destroyed.
The GSEE, Greece's largest labour union with 600,000 members, issued a statement protesting against the conservatives' economic and social policies, citing "lay-offs, rising unemployment, choking taxation... privatisations, attacks on social benefits and the destruction of the environment."
The protesters, carrying signs saying "the government and the banks sell off the country", rallied at the Thessaloniki international fair which Karamanlis opened Saturday morning, an event held every September.
The prime minister later said he planned to control public spending and battle fiscal fraud as part of an effort to bring the country out of the economic doldrums.
"The consequences of the crisis leave no doubt: two difficult years await us," he said.