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Thessaloniki shut down by anti-cuts protests

Greece hit by fresh union demonstrations

Thousands of workers marched through Greece’s second city Thessaloniki on Saturday to protest against cutbacks and the sacking of public-sector workers.

Authorities cordoned off the grounds of the trade fair where Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was giving his annual speech on the economy, keeping protesters a mile away.

Most of the city centre had been cut off to traffic since Friday and nearly 4,500 police officers patrolled the area.

Police said 17,000 anti-austerity protesters took part in three separate demonstrations on Saturday evening, but organisers claimed at least double that number.

A rally called by the country’s two largest unions ended peacefully and one by communist trade unionists went largely without incident, although farmers drove a lorry to one of the international fair gates and dumped large quantities of tomatoes and peaches in protest.

A third rally, by opponents of a Canadian gold mine near Thessaloniki, ended with protesters throwing rocks and bottles while police responded with tear gas.
Mr Samaras claimed that the economy was on its way to recovery.

“Greece is turning the page on six years of recession,” he insisted.

He added that Greece would record a budget surplus in 2013, leaving out debt repayments.

But demonstrators said they did not share the government’s optimism.

The country has witnessed three years of ferocious austerity policies imposed by the government in return for bailout loans from the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission.


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