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live Athens – the centre of violent clashes and arson

13 February 2012 / 12:02:00  GRReporter
4240 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

A huge black cloud is hanging over the centre of Athens. Seventeen buildings are burning along Omonia Square to Syngrou Avenue and from Monastiraki Square to the Exarcheia neighbourhood. The "Atikon" historical cinema on Stadiou Street and the Kaufman French literature bookshop were burned out.

An old building in neoclassical style on the corner between Stadiou and Amerikis streets, which was in process of restoration, is burning. On the next street, Christou Lada, the offices of To Vima and Ta Nea newspapers were broken into. Shops, cafes and banks are seriously damaged.

Fires are burning in bank branches in Eolou, Evripidou streets, Syngrou Avenue and the whole area of downtown Athens. Rumours that the National Library is on fire have proved false. Another historic cinema - "Asti" in Korai Square – escaped with damage to the entrance only.

A group of youths attacked with stones the police station near the Acropolis. Others took the arsenal of a weapons shop on Omonia Square.

The clashes between demonstrators and riot forces began shortly after 5 pm, when groups of youths began breaking pieces of marble from the monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of Parliament and started throwing them at the guards. Riot forces reacted immediately by firing lit grenades and by significant amounts of tear gas a little later. This forced thousands of demonstrators, who had gathered, to disperse in the streets around Syntagma Square. Others came to Monastiraki, but remained there. At 7 pm, the square was crowded with people who were waiting for the chemical gas to disperse to go back to Syntagma.

There were fires in some streets to neutralize the particularly strong tear gas. At the same time, the area around the Parliament was echoing with more and more gas bombings in response to the attacks with marble pieces. The heaviest clashes were down Filelinon street, at the bottom of the square in front of the Ministry of Finance.

A little later, the scene of events moved around the hotels to the top of Syntagma. The police drove the young people to Panepistimiou Avenue and then, they stayed around the building of Athens University. There were heavy clashes in Xenophontos Street, where the Embassy of Cyprus is, which was left with not much of its marble cladding. The fierce battles were interrupted for several minutes when some protesters took an elderly man to the police officers. The man was sitting in his car in the middle between the two "warring parties". The car was full of his personal belongings but he said that he does not live in it. After he left the area, the clashes resumed in full force.

In the square, as in all such cases, doctors have made an outdoor volunteer first aid cabinet. Their actions were coordinated by the head of the Medical Association and mayor of the suburb of Maroussi, Yiannis Patoulis.

Ambulances took total seventy people to the two hospitals on duty "George Genimatas" and "Sotiria". According to medical sources, they are in relatively good condition with minor injuries. Estimates are that the number of wounded is higher because some people went to hospitals on their own.

There were heavy clashes in Thessaloniki and Patras. In Corfu, the offices of local deputies Angela Gerekou from PASOK and Nikos Dendias from New Democracy were attacked.

Fifty youths were captured during the clashes and fifty others were arrested. Shortly after the vote, the websites of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and the parties PASOK and New Democracy were blocked by Anonymous.

Photos of the hot Athenian night are available here.

Tags: SocietyProtestSyntagmaParliamentMemorandumClashesFiresBanksTear gas
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