Wednesday 15 June 2011 saw the 17th general strike in Greece since the beginning of the economic crisis, this time in protest of the second wave of IMF-enforced austerity cuts and demand a new government.
Around 500,000 people gathered to march on Syntagma Square to join the protest to surround and blockade parliament, as politicians of both parties slogged out the bailout agreement inside. Police for the second time ever used metal fences to barricade the side streets around the building and stop the protest. As anger ensued at the denial of protest police used tear gas and concussion grenades to disperse the growing crowds.
As molotovs hit, trying to breach the police lines at the front of parliament, right wing nationalist protestors turned on anarchists in an attempt to protect the parliament building.
On the south side of the square riot police then instigated incursions into the square, attacking the peaceful protest camp and drawing attention away from parliament. Turning the entire southern end of Syntagma into a battleground for more than seven hours also succeeded in halting the protest march, which never made it into the square. If it had the blockade of parliament would surely have succeeded.
One new weapon I had never witnessed before were the smaller multiple explosion concussion grenades, the first explosion, which I initially thought had blown the end of my right foot off, pushes the grenade into the air towards upper body and faces, then the repeat explosions go off. The disorientation is immense, contact with the grenade on explosion causing burns, how severe depends on how close it is to your body. Tear gas strength also increased, a dirty brown cloud of gas causing immense pain on contact with skin.
According to locals the June 15 general strike will be remembered as the worst riots the city has seen for three years.
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