ATHENS — Dozens of masked youths clashed with police at a union protest yesterday in Athens during the country’s fifth general strike this year against the government’s planned pension and labor reforms.
Riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse troublemakers who threw chunks of marble smashed off metro station entrances and set rubbish bins on fire. Running clashes continued along a major avenue as rioters armed with wooden clubs made repeated sallies against police.
Seven policemen were injured in the clashes, and 13 demonstrators were detained, police said.
However, yesterday’s clashes were more muted than riots that erupted during a general strike on May 5, when three people died after becoming trapped in a bank torched by rioters.
The violence came as some 10,000 people took part in a demonstration organized by the country’s two main labor unions and fringe left-wing groups. An earlier separate march by some 6,000 members of the Communist Party-backed PAME union ended peacefully.
An estimated 7,000 people took part in two separate, peaceful protests in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
Yesterday’s strike shut down public services, disrupted transportation, left hospitals operating on emergency staff, and pulled all news broadcasts off the air. The country’s airports, however, remained open, and international flights were operating normally.
Unions oppose draft legislation submitted to parliament last week that would increase retirement ages and make it cheaper for companies to fire workers. The measures — which require 40 years of social security contributions for a full pension — are aimed at fixing the country’s debt crisis, which has shaken the entire euro zone.