Violence escalated as Greece passed €130bn bailout deal
Several buildings in Athens were ablaze last night, as lawmakers scrambled to reach a tough austerity package in early Monday.
Dozens of shops went up in flames, and branches of foreign chains and banks were targeted. Gangs of black-masked protesters hurled pieces of smashed pavement and petrol bombs.
The chaotic scene broke out around 6pm, few hours after the lawmakers debated fiercely about a bail out package to save Greece from being bankrupted.
Authorities said at least 74 protesters and police officers were injured in the fierce clashes, 23 suspected rioters were arrested and a further 25 were detained, Associated Press reported.
As fighting between protesters and police raged for hours, protesters threw bombs made from gas canisters. The riot police retaliated firing volleys of tear gas and stun grenades. Loud booms could be heard from inside the parliament, the Guardian correspondent reported.
Syntagma Square outside the parliament was surrounded with clouds of thick smoke. Tourists and pedestrians were terrified, and they flocked into hotel lobbies or inside buildings for shelter.
Several historical buildings were ablaze, including a neo-classical Attikon cinema and the underground cinema Asty used by Gestapo during World War Two as a torture chamber. Authorities said some of the wrecked buildings were of special cultural, historical and architectural value.
The riots also spread to Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki, and the islands of Crete and Corfu, according to the State NET television.
Conservative lawmaker Costis Hatzidakis told the Guardian, “We are facing destruction. Our country, our home, has become ripe for burning, the centre of Athens is in flames. We cannot allow populism to burn our country down.”
The austerity measures to be attained by 2015, including 150,000 public sector job cuts, liberalization of labour laws, 20% reduction in the minimum monthly wage from €751 to €600.