Athens shaken by riots after vote for austerity
ATHENS, Greece — The acrid stench of tear gas permeated central Athens on Monday and the husks of burnt-out buildings still smoldered after a night of rioting following the Greek Parliament’s vote to approve austerity measures in exchange for more rescue financing.
In the aftermath, municipal workers were sweeping up broken glass while Greek political leaders were surveying the political damage following the expulsion of dozens of lawmakers from their parties, after the legislators had broken ranks on the austerity vote ahead of early national elections. On Monday the government spokesman, Pantelis Kapsis, said the elections would be held in April.
About 150 stores were vandalized and looted, and about 45 buildings — including neoclassical structures, two historic movie theaters, banks and cafes — were seriously burnt, many beyond repair, according to the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The chamber estimated the losses in the “tens of millions” of dollars. The public order minister, Christos Papoutsis, called the damage part of “an organized plan of arson and looting.”
More than 80,000 people came out to protest peacefully on Sunday, before scores of violent hooded protesters hijacked the demonstration. A spokesman for the Athens police said Monday that 74 people had been arrested and another 92 briefly detained, after scores of violent protesters scuffled with police and hurled Molotov cocktails into buildings.
The spokesman said that 104 police officers had been injured in the riots, but gave no injury figures for demonstrators, though the ambulance service said there had been dozens.
As he stood in a smoldering shopping arcade, Dimitris Arvinatis, 56, a doorman, described how rioters tore open the steel shutters of shops and threw in a series of Molotov cocktails. “It felt like war,” he said. “I could not believe I was in Athens. I have never seen this in my almost 60 years of life, and I have been working here all my life.”