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Friday 21 October 2011

Second day of the nationwide general strike in Greece 20 October 2011

The death of a demonstrator from cardiac arrest overshadowed the 2nd day of nationwide strikes that were as popular as yesterday 19th of October. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people gathered in Syntagma square, opposite the Greek parliament, to demonstrate peacefully although clashes broke out and police raid took place. 

Thousands of Communist-backed union protesters (PAME), who had vowed to encircle parliament, had gathered in Amalias avenue from early in the morning, in order to prevent politicians from accessing the building for the vote on the new austerity package. More protesters kept coming down to Syntagma square and the area was already packed by 12:00pm - earlier than yesterday. People from the two major trade union bodies GSEE & ADEDY, left wing groups and parties along with antiauthoritarians flooded the streets around the area.

The crowd was determined to stay right outside the parliament, amid a second day of mass demonstrations. PAME members had made a public statement upon that, backing up the idea to stay there at least until nominal voting takes place. They formed a defensive ring in front of the building, without allowing any non-members to pass through. At 15:00pm clashes occurred when people attempted to approach the parliament and within minutes the peaceful protest turned into a battlefield among rival groups of demonstrators that hurled fire bombs and hundreds of stones. Many got injured and received first aid treatment from a volunteer group organized for such circumstances.

Police forces intervened after a while, using stun-flash and tear gas to split the crowd. Most of the demonstrators, including PAME members, walked away indeed, before the actual voting takes place.  The injury toll rose to 74 people who were taken to Evagelismos hospital. One of them, aged 53, who was suffering from respiratory dysfunction, passed away from cardiac arrest. It remains unknown whether the fatality stems from teargas use from police forces, as Evagelismos doctors claim or it was caused by other medical causes.

General Secretary of Communist Party of Greece, Aleka Papariga, condemned violence against PAME members underlying that it was a preplanned assault which would wreck havoc in case police forces acted immediately. According to Syriza (left wing) party official statement, the responsibility is upon provocative groups of masked people with certain aims against social movements.

Dozens of demonstrators attempted to gather again in Syntagma, but riot squad tactics aimed to halt a possible reunion. In the mean time, random clashes spread out in the back streets near the area. Six policemen suffered injuries and 30 people were arrested, some of them youths below 18 years old for criminal offences. The demonstrations in other parts of the country were less massive than yesterday, with PAME groups being numerically dominant in some of them.
Source: ICON PRESS / Palaiologos Nikos

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