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Greek austerity vote causes huge demonstrations and riots – pictures and updates

Greece austerity vote and demonstrations – the day so far

Protesters set up burning barricades to block streets leading to the parliament in Athens
Protesters set up burning barricades to block streets leading to the parliament in Athens Photograph: Panagiotis Tzamaros/Reuters

6.00pm: Artemis, who was at Syntagma Square today between 10.30am and 2.50pm BST, has sent in an eyewitness account of events today. He says there were troublemakers but the police “showed no mercy”. He also says many Greeks believe there were agent provocateurs at work:

I joined the crowd of mostly independent, peaceful protesters at about 12:30. Lots of grey-haired people around, as in every single protest I’ve been to in the last month.

The riot police fired huge amounts of teargas right in the middle of the crowd – more often than not without the slightest provocation. Clearly, they had orders to disperse the protesters at all cost while the 300 Greek MPs were voting on the new package of austerity measures in the Parliament nearby. At some point, some of us were kettled and targeted; some of us took refuge in a building – most of us gagging and wretching; there’s no getting used to teargas, believe me. I have nothing but admiration for those who stood their ground and didn’t leave the Square; without a proper gas mask it’s impossible to stop the streaming tears or indeed breathe.

The police showed no mercy; you’d have thought they suffered from teargas incontinence! What’s the point, I joked to my companion, the austerity measures will have us crying our eyes out anyway – they really are set to cripple the Greek economy rather than help it. Everyone I spoke to – ordinary Greeks, many in their 40s, 50s, and 60s – agreed that the police tactics hardly differed from those applied during the 1967-1974 dictatorship.

The ‘mysterious’ thugs, who, most Greeks are convinced include agents provocateurs, did turn up at some point and broke into a bank – PC monitors, furniture, anything they could grab was thrown into the street (Othonos Street) and set alight. About 500 people seemed to be trapped in the Syntagma underground station, many with breathing problems. Red Cross volunteers provided first aid, but some people had to be hospitalised, I heard. Just now the Greek association of pharmacists appealed to the police to allow emergency services – doctors, ambulances – through the blockade, to reach those protesters in need of medical help.

As I’m typing this, from my parents’ place, about 1 mile from Syntagma Sq., I can hear blasts of, presumably, more teargas and smoke grenades. On the way back from Syntagma I could see a handful of hooded thugs ripping wooden benches and setting piles of scrap wood and rubbish alight in the middle of Panepistimiou Street, outside the Athens university. There were hardly any protesters, or indeed police, around at the time; it certainly looks like those hooded urban terrorists are organised and act according to a plan aimed at sabotaging peaceful protests – an aim obviously shared by the police, and, of course, the minister of citizen protection, who (theoretically) gives the orders.

5.48pm: Finance minister Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has denounced the clashes and defended the actions of the police. He told parliament:

The police has the duty to protect law and order and face down all violent provocations.

Doctors working with the demonstrators said they had treated at least 25 people for minor injuries and 192 people with respiratory problems at the adjacent Syntagma metro station, Reuters reports. At least 40 police officers were hurt, the police union said.

5.32pm: Police have been ringing a Greek TV station to claim police attacked diners in restaurants, Tweeters say:

@AfroditeXig

Live blog: Twitter
Ppl testify now on tv that Greek riot police attacked ppl eating at tavernas & cafe at Monastiraki sq without any reason. #Greekrevolution


@amethystlexi

Live blog: TwitterTR @Jaquoutopie Confirmed that Delta-Dias police teams threw tear gas and even hit tourists at restaurants in Plaka #rbnews #syntagma #29jgr

@eF_daemon

Live blog: Twitter
#Greece Delta Police force raid Monastiraki square and attacked ppl eating at the restaurants there. Mission:to terrify ppl @Haroon_Siddique

5.22pm: Reuters has followed up on the attack on Alexandros Athanasiadis (see 4.46pm), the MP with the ruling Pasok party who had said he would vote against the austerity bill but then changed his mind and voted in favour of the deeply unpopular measures.

It reports that a group of around 20 demonstrators threw bottles and a chair at Athanasiadis as he was escorted by five policemen after leaving the parliament building. It says TV images showed him holding his ear but police sources said he was not injured in the attack.

5.19pm: While the Greek people continue to show what they think of the result of today’s vote, Heather Stewart, the Observer’s economics editor, has been responding to questions from commenters in the thread below on what it all means. Thanks for all your questions so far – here’s a selection of those asked:

jefferd kicked things off:

The borrowed money has been spent, and to pay it back the austerity measures need to be implemented – so in effect the Greek people of the past incurred the cost for the Greek people of the present

HeatherS responds:

You’re right that present Greek taxpayers are to some extent paying for past excesses, but the question about the austerity measures is whether they’ll actually work: if they just drive the Greek economy into an even deeper recession – which looks highly likely – it will be less, not more likely that Greece will be able to pay back its creditors.

rogerkw asks

I think you have said the proposed austerity measures represent a further 3% of GDP. Would this then put their primary balance of payments into surplus?

How would those numbers be affected by the proposed 100bn euro “bailout”?

What proportion of next year’s projected GDP is expected to go on capital debt repayment? How would this be affected by the “bailout”?

What I’m suggesting is that if they were to “go rogue” with full hard unstructured default and give up on the idea of getting any more loans in the near future then a balanced budget would be inevitable and wouldn’t involve too painful an adjustment.
I’m saying this is the only realistic way they have of reaching a surplus. The bailout will add to their deficit not reduce it. Default will remain inevitable and the rest of us will be pouring good money after bad. Only the private banks will be happy.
The only alternative is a structured default with repayments and interest payments deferred way into the future and no more loans, pretty much an agreed version of the unstructured default.

Can you comment?

Has there been a run on the Greek banks? If not why not?

HeatherS answers:

The Greek government’s medium-term fiscal strategy – the plan that’s been voted on today – envisages a primary surplus (ie excluding interest payments) of almost 7% of GDP by 2014, but it’s not clear how that will be affected by the new bailout package, which is of course still being negotiated.

There is some evidence of a run on Greek banks, but they are effectively being protected by the ECB, which has been propping up ailing banks right across the eurozone with emergency loans.

if they were to “go rogue” with full hard unstructured default and give up on the idea of getting any more loans in the near future then a balanced budget would be inevitable and wouldn’t involve too painful an adjustment.

You may be right that a default may be Greece‘s best hope; but it certainly wouldn’t be pain-free – eg. one argument against default has been the fragility of the Greek banks, which hold Greek bonds as their main capital – they would have to be recapitalised, ie bailed out, or the entire banking system would collapse.

ireadnews asked for some explanation on Greece‘s future:

Is there an estimated time that it will take for Greece to pay back its debts?

HeatherS responds:

Well the new bailout plan involves swapping some of Greece‘s current loans for 30 year bonds, so that’s a minimum – but that wouldn’t be unusual: unlike individual borrowers, countries have a very long life, so it often makes sense for them to pay back loans over an ultra- long period. Britain made the last payment on its World War Two debts to America in 2006!

5.02pm: The Acropolis Now website has some arresting photos from today’s clashes, taken in the last few minutes.

Athens smokeThis shows a fireman inside the McDonald’s that was looted by protesters:

McDonalds Athens_

4.47pm: Authorities and emergency services said 26 police and 15 protesters were injured and transferred to hospitals, while 29 people were detained, and nine arrested, the Associated Press reports.

4.46pm: Greek blogger Sofia Thesspirit tweets:

Live blog: TwitterMP member Athanasiadis just caught by protesters in Valaoritou. They haven’t hit him yet but its ugly. #25mgr #greekrevolution #Syntagma

I’m screaming “do not hit him”. no one has touched him so far but he is ridiculously smiling and making it worse #Syntagma #greekrevolution

Athanasiades is the MP from the ruling Pasok party, who had said he would vote against the bill but after listening to the prime minister’s speech in parliament today changed his mind and voted on the government’s side (see 2.34pm).

4.39pm: This YouTube video shows people lighting fires, looting a shop and hurling projectiles. Police fire round after round of teargas and throw stun grenades. One man can be seen being arrested.

_

4.27pm: There appears to be no let up in the clashes.

@stratosathens

Live blog: TwitterMin of Finance on fire. Police moves into the square #rbnews #29jgr #Athens

fire Dept moved in, took care of the fire at the min of Finance. Police backs out of the square #rbnews #29jgr #Athens

@tconnellyRTE

Live blog: TwitterBattles raging across #Syntagma, police now right in the centre of the square, the post office building on the bottom left in flames


@richardquest

Live blog: Twitter
Unbelievable amount of tear gas in #Greece capital #Athens in the main square, protesters in running battles with police.

@iLi_van_iLi

Live blog: Twitter
unprecedent brutality plastic bombs, tear gas and attacks from police now in #syntagma @m25gr #j89gr #j28gr

Protesters flee tear gas frired by police in Athens
Protesters flee tear gas frired by police in Athens. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/AFP/Getty Images

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4.08pm: The Greek news organisation Skai (Greek link) reports that 26 people have been detained and three arrested.

It also says at least 500 people have been treated at the Metro station in Syntagma Square, according to the Red Cross, with 30 taken to hospital.

Skai says the headquarters of the ruling Pasok party have been destroyed in Chania.

3.27pm: The Guardian’s Helena Smith, in Athens, said that the extensive use of teargas by the police was raised by MPs in parliament during the debate over the mid-term bill:

Riot police have used an extraordinary amount of teargas, so much so that the debate in parliament was dominated, to some extent, by MPs getting up speaking – on the left, the Communist party – saying that this chemical warfare outside the parliament is outrageous, had assumed lethal dimensions and these MPs appealed to the government to stop the police from using this teargas in a very organised way.

3.19pm: Greek blogger Sofia Thesspirit is tweeting as the violence continues in Athens. She has joined the chorus of protesters accusing the police of overreacting:

Live blog: TwitterI just watched policemen hitting a girl, no more than 25yrs old. I didn’t manage to take pictures. #greekrevolution #Syntagma #25mgr

Police forming a square around #Syntagma no one can approach we can hear gas bombs, hell broke loose http://yfrog.com/kec1xfpj

Chemicals on the sqr, people trapped at metro station, the rest of us can’t approach, I’m scared we may have casualties. #Syntagma #25mgr

European Union flag

3.11pm: European leaders promptly declared that Greece had taken a big step forward in reforming its economy, as well as a large step back from default, the Guardian’s Europe editor Ian Traynor writes.

A statement from Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, the European commission and council presidents promised that another government victory on Thursday would see 12 billion euros of emergency funding released within a couple of weeks as well as “rapid” progress on a new major bailout package.

With today’s approval by the Greek Parliament of the revised economic programme, the country has taken an important step forward along the necessary path of fiscal consolidation and growth-enhancing structural reform. But it has also taken a vital step back – from the very grave scenario of default. This was a vote of national responsibility.

Tomorrow, the eyes of Europe will again be turned towards Athens as parliamentarians are called upon to approve the implementing measures for the programme. A second positive vote would pave the way for the disbursement of the next tranche of financial assistance. It would also allow for work to proceed rapidly on a second package of financial assistance, enabling the country to move forward and restoring hope to the Greek people.

3.08pm: An update from the financial desk from my colleague Graeme Wearden:

Graeme WeardenMost eyes in the City were glued to the vote as it took place, eagerly tracking the latest running tally of votes. There was a moment of drama when the euro suddenly dropped by nearly a cent against the dollar to $1.43245, its lowest point of the day. Why? A newsflash that a government MP (later confirmed as Panagiotis Kouroblis) had voted against the package. It then swiftly bounced back to $1.441 after a second newsflash reported that an opposition member (Elsa Papadimitrou) had voted with Papandreou’s side.

All is calm now, except shares have been falling back since the bill was passed – which is ironic, given they had risen this morning as traders became more confident that the Greek government would win.

The FTSE is up 57 points at 5824, and shares are rallying on Wall Street in early trading.

Louise Cooper, market commentator at BGC markets, reports that there was heavy action in the foreign exchange markets today as traders covered themselves. “Most wanted to be flat by the time the vote was due,” she said.

2.59pm: Protesters using ladders broke into the first floor of an office building on Syntagma Square today and attempted to set it on fire, witnesses told Reuters.

Some 30 protesters entered the building, which houses a branch of Greece‘s second largest lender Eurobank (EFGr.AT) on the ground floor. They were driven out by riot police who were able to stop them from burning the offices, the witnesses said.

2.52pm: Max Johnson of forex specialists, Currency Solutions, says that the austerity bill passed in parliament may be “the medicine that kills the patient”:

And so another 10p looks set to be put into the meter of Greece‘s financial life support machine. With the Greek economy in intensive care, the Athens government finally has the mandate it needs to prescribe more bitter economic medicine. The Eurozone is now likely to approve a second bailout but there’s every danger that the medicine will kill the patient.

Few Greeks look like they will take it lying down either. The popular anger convulsing the streets of Athens with strikes and protests will surely get worse.

There is every possibility that poorer Greeks, who will be hit hardest by the austerity measures, will simply refuse to pay their taxes. If that happens the prospects of a Greek default will go from highly likely to inevitable, plunging the country into the abyss and undermining any benefit the austerity measures may have had.

2.48pm: A protester told the BBC there will be demonstrations every day, it will be as if the vote didn’t happen.

The next vote is in parliament is tomorrow, on an enabling bill that will allow the government to implement austerity measures more rapidly than before.

Clashes continue in the streets with Teargas volleys still being fired by the authorities.

A couple of reactions to the vote on Twitter:

@rebeldog_ath

Live blog: Twitter
Oh! and now that they voted YES, that means we are for sale. #BUYgreece #superSALE #syntagma

@amethystlexi

Live blog: Twitter
Things will take a darker turn for Greeks if we accept those new measures with defeatism & lowered heads. Let’s not. #greekrevolution

2.34pm: Interestingly, Athanasios Athanasiades from the ruling Pasok party, who had said he would be the only socialist voting against the bill (see 11.08am) – many of his constituents are employed by the Public Power Corporation which is up for privatisation – changed his mind after hearing the prime minister speak and voted in favour.

The only member of Pasok who voted in favour was Panagiotis Kouroublis who was expelled from the socialist party as a result, reducing the government’s majority to 154 in the 300-seat assembly.

2.22pm: Greece‘s parliament approved the five-year austerity plan with 155 votes in favour and 138 votes against.

Only one member of prime minister George Papandreou’s socialist party voted against the law and the speaker of parliament announced he had been immediately expelled from the party. One deputy from the conservative opposition cast a vote in favour.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou speaks during the debate on austerity measures

Greek prime minister George Papandreou speaks during the debate on austerity measures in the Greek Parliament. Photograph: Katerina Mavrona/EPA_

2.08pm: BREAKING NEWS: The mid-term bill has passed in the Greek parliament.

1.56pm: One member of the ruling (socialist) Pasok party has voted against the mid-term bill so far, the Press Project graphic is showing. It also shows that one member of the opposition has voted in favour.

Meanwhile the violence is continuing outside parliament.

1.44pm: The vote in the Greek parliament on the mid-term bill is underway. Each of the 300 MPs will individually be asked what their vote is.

The Press Project has a useful tool for following the vote, although it appears to be running a bit slow at the moment. It is also livestreaming from parliament.

For your guidance, “nai” means “yes” in Greek, but “oxi” (sounds like okay) means “no”.

Live blog: recap

1.30pm: Here’s a quick summary of events so far today:

There have been running battles between riot police and protesters outside the Greek parliament again as its MPs prepared to vote on whether to pass the austerity bill demanded by international lenders. The trouble flared after some protesters surged through metal barricades outside the parliament building. Police once again fired volleys of teargas. Some demonstrators hurled projectiles at officers but many fled the square as teargas filled the air.

• Voting in parliament is due to begin shortly on the mid-term bill. The expectation is that the it will pass narrowly. Only only one member of the ruling (socialist) Pasok party is definitely voting against the deeply unpopular bill and an opposition conservative MP, Elsa Papadimitriou, said she would back the austerity measures. The Euro and international stock markets have risen on expectation that the bill will pass.

1.25pm: Jonathan Rugman, Channel 4 News foreign correspondent, is tweeting the address to parliament by the Greek prime minister George Papandreou.

Live blog: TwitterGreek PM: “we can choose deficit or prosperity. This (vote) is the only way for us to buy the time to make the changes we need to make”.

Greek PM: “this is time to build our house on concrete foundations..we have to stop our country from collapsing”.

Papandreou to Greek parliament: “It is crucial that no family goes through the consequences of a total economic collapse.”

1.06pm: Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill was on Bloomberg just now. He said this is not just a sovereign debt crisis but a wider crisis about the “structure and leadership” of the eurozone. Asked what plan B might be if the Greek vote fails, he said: “Pray: Plan B is pray”.

Live blog: comment

12.50pm: Here are a couple of interesting comments from below the line.

The first is on the police tactics and what is likely to happen after the vote.

kindersurprise

I was in Syntagma Sq last night and it was an incredibly volatile situation. Teargas and fire crackers were thrown all over the place. One was even deployed into the middle of a group of people having a calm debate, which was totally uncalled for. There was of course a violent element (seemingly a lot of teenagers from what I could make out) who were just basically running around smashing things up, looting the kiosks and having running battles with the police.

The police were pretty disgraceful (as usual) throwing rocks at groups of protesters (not ‘anarchists’ people of all ages) and generally lashing out and trying to ‘kettle’ protestors into smaller side streets so they could then throw the tear gas at them. Their ‘orders’ were clear.

The problem is, this was before the measures are voted for. What happens if they pass? The place looked like a warzone and was so fraught the mood would change in a split second. I really wonder what the way ahead is. It doesn’t seem like there’ll ever be a satisfactory one.

This one is from gpap, a Greek who thinks default is not an option but who sympathises with the public anger:

Personally, I don’t disagree with the IMF/EU plans. I can’t see any other alternative – if we default and go back to the drachma, the cuts are going to be considerably more severe.

Nevertheless, I can understand why people are furious. The government has completely failed to deal with the main causes of this mess – tax evasion and corruption. It prefers to go for easier targets like private sector employees and pensioners, who can’t possibly evade tax because of the equivalent of PAYE.

These people are understandably angry about having to pay all the cost for a mess they didn’t cause. Not only do they feel stupid for having been honest citizens and paid all their taxes, but they are also constantly vilified by the international media, who portray us all like lazy cheats.

The prevailing mood in Greece right now is one of blind anger: people say we don’t want any more bailouts just leave us alone.

12.42pm: Teargas is still being fired but thousands of people have been driven out of Syntagma Square.

Dozens of police motorcylces, each carrying two officers have been deployed on one side of the square.

A crowd gathered to block their path but the officers then got off their bikes and beat them back.

12.23pm: After the vote, Philip Inman, Guardian and Observer economics correspondent, and Heather Stewart, the Observer’s economics editor will be answering all your questions on what the result means.

You may be interested in the likely consequences for the Greek economy, the eurozone or for those holding Greek debt. Please post your questions in the comments section.

12.14pm: BBC Newsnight’s Paul Mason, in Athens, tweets that many non-violent protesters have been caught up in the clashes.

Live blog: Twitter
This sudden attack on largely peaceful crowd bodes ill for today. Venizelos asked for mtg with them earlier

Evangelos Venizelos is the Greek finance minister.

Demonstrators clash with riot police in front of the Greek Parliament

Demonstrators clash with riot police in front of the Greek Parliament. Illustration: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images_

12.11pm: Time for a quick update from my colleague Graeme Wearden on the City desk:

Graeme WeardenThe mood is much calmer in the financial markets than on the streets of Athens, where investors are still confident that the austerity bill will pass. The FTSE 100 has rallied this morning, especially after opposition MP Elsa Papadimitrou confirmed she would vote with the government. At midday the blue chip index was up 85 points at 5851.

The euro has kept gaining against the dollar at around $1.442 – as fears ease that the single currency is about to implode.

The Greek stock index is also buoyant, and up over 3% on the day now. That’s a 10% gain from Monday’s lows.

However, there’s a long track record of “buy the rumour, sell the fact” in the Square Mile, so the rally might well burn out as soon as the verdict is actually in. Especially as the world economy has its own problems, with growth stalling across the board. Other weaker
members of the eurozone are under pressure (Spain) or already trying to implement unpopular austerity measures of their own [Ireland, Portugal].

As Josh Raymond of City Index put it in his latest trading note:

There is no end to the crisis however with a yes vote. We still need to see the implementation of the package pass through tomorrow and Greece receive the next tranche of loans, though both factors would also be expected to happen as mere formalities of today’s proceedings. The markets has seen a strong bout of gains this week but there remains some severe headwinds facing the global economy such as sovereign debt spreading within the euro zone, the potential for a slowing of Chinese growth and the end of QE2 in the US. To that end, we should be mindful of the potential for sharp bouts of profit taking.

12.07pm: The Guardian has video of the build-up to the vote, including the views of ordinary Greek people.

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12.01pm: Police appear to be firing teargas at people as they try to get away and go down to the Metro station. It looks like highly dubious tactics by police.

There are people throwing missiles but the response by the authorities seems to be pretty indiscriminate.

Greece teargas_

11.55am: ITV’s James Mates is tweeting from the heart of the clashes:

Live blog: TwitterUs and C4N crew caught in huge cloud of teargas. Nothing to do but run. Gasmask almost useless. Burns the skin. Urgh…

Live blog: TwitterTurns from peaceful to angry in seconds. Moderates try to stop black masked anarchists confronting police. Fail.

11.45am: A Greek opposition MP has said she will back the austerity bill as has one of the members of the ruling party who had previously said he would vote against the measures, the BBC reports.

This makes it all the more likely that the bill will be passed.

11.41am: A surge in the crowd overturned metal barriers outside the parliament, forcing back a line of riot police who responded with teargas, Reuters reports.

The protesters are now being pushed back across the road by volleys of teargas. The BBC’s Jon Sopel has just had to don a gas mask.

Live blog: Twitter

11.31am: Greek journalist Matina Stevis just tweeted news of fresh clashes:

Massive teargassing and hand grenades thrown by riot police against the crowd at Syntagma sq now

Presumably they are stun/smoke grenades. You can see more on the livestream (11.17am).

11.17am: Dailymotion.com is livestreaming Syntagma Square again today:


LIVE STREAMING: Γενική Απεργία ενάντια στο… by News247_

11.08am: Only one member of the ruling (socialist) PASOK party is likely to vote against the bill – not enough to prevent its passage given that PASOK has a five-seat majority in the 300-member legislature – socialist deputy Alexandros Athanassiadis has told the Associated Press.

Athanassiadis, many of whose constituents are employed by the Public Power Corporation which is up for privatisation, said he maintains his opposition to the bill but that he will likely be the only dissenter. He said:

I have not changed my opinion … as things stand, I persist in my decision. I don’t think (any other socialist) deputies will vote against. I will be the only one.

But the Greek news website Kathimerini.com says the vote is still on a “knife-edge” with three other socialists expressing doubts. It reports that there has been last-ditch attempt on Tuesday to win round dissenters straying from party lines.

10.54am: Alexander Marquardt, from ABC News, has posted a picture of protesters spreading Maalox, an antacid, on their faces to protect against teargas.

10.42am: The Guardian’s Helena Smith in Athens writes that battle lines are being drawn ahead of the crucial vote with 8 people already hospitalised this morning:

Residents in downtown Athens woke up to the whiff of tear gas and burning rubbing bins, the former still hanging in the air after a day of pitched battles between protesters and riot police, the latter set ablaze by young Greeks bracing for a fight.

Since early this morning, protesters started pouring back into Syntagma Square, the focal point of opposition against austerity measures now seen as the symbol of everything that is wrong with Greece. Many say they will stay in the square whether or not George Papandreou’s socialist government passes the bill.

“Whatever happens we will stay on and fight,” says Pavlos Antonopoulos, the activist schoolteacher I spoke to yesterday who was back in the square by 8:30am after snatching a couple of hours of sleep. “We hope to amass a lot of people today even if the government has sent out a very strong order to keep Syntagma clear and us away from the parliament building. We will do everything we can to ring off parliament, to stop the vote taking place.”

She said that people have been working hard to clean up the square after yesterday’s clashes and the police are determined to prevent a repeat of the trouble:

Municipal employees have been working overtime to clean the square – hosing it down and in some cases painstakingly removing graffiti – but the detritus of battle is everywhere: in the shattered windows of shops and chain stores, the chipped marble facades of hotels, smashed pavements and broken entrances to metro stations. Even the trees are burned.

The police, meanwhile, appear hell-bent on keeping demonstrators away. The capital’s main boulevards have been cordoned off and there have been reports of violent incidences between gangs of young Greeks and police in Pangrati, a nearby neighbourhood. By 11 am at least eight people had been rushed to hospital after being clubbed by police with one trade unionist reportedly suffering head injuries and requiring several stitches.

But ordinary Greeks are equally determined to have their voices heard.

Busloads have arrived from around the country – all heading for Syntagma Square. And they are backed by the powerful unions that have brought Greece to a standstill with a 48-hour general strike.

“Thousands of strikers have been moved by rage and exasperation with new measures that yet again hit them while those who have, those who stole from the nation’s public wealth, those who have never paid taxes, drink to the health of those who are mocked,” said Yiannis Panagopoulos who presides over the confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) the country’s biggest labour force. “These policies are not only unfair, they lead nowhere and are ineffective. Today we are waging a huge battle and this battle will not stop until these policies are overturned.”

10.36am: Protesters have clashed with police outside parliament as people opposed to the austerity bill have sought to block MPs from entering the building to vote.

One communist deputy was pelted with yoghurt as she made her way into parliament and three people were treated for minor injuries as protesters clashed with police during an attempt to bar the way into the chamber.

Greek communist party MP Liana Kanelli attacked with yoghurt

Greek communist party member of parliament Liana Kanelli gets into her car after she had yogurt thrown at her by protestors Photograph: /AFP/Getty Images_

10.31am: The markets are betting on the mid-term bill being passed by the Greek parliament.

• Japan’s Nikkei closed 1.54% higher at 9797 points.

European shares rose sharply in early trading:
• Britain’s FTSE 100 was 1.2% higher at 5,834.26
• Germany’s DAX rose 1.3% to 7,265.34
• France’s CAC-40 was up 1.1%at 3,895.66.

• Wall Street was also headed for a higher opening, with Dow Jones industrial futures gaining 0.2%to 12,169 and S&P 500 futures rising 0.3%t to 1,298.40.

10.27am: The governor of the bank of Greece, George Provopoulos, has told the Financial Times the country will be committing “suicide” if its parliament fails to back the austerity bill.

He said:

We have never really had a debate in this country about what went wrong. In Portugal the new government has come in and said that there will be a difficult two years ahead. We have not had that kind of talk here …

For parliament to vote against this package would be a crime – the country would be voting for its suicide.

10.23am: My colleague Graeme Wearden has outlined exactly what parliament will be voting on today. It amounts to a hard-hitting package of tax rises, cuts to benefits and public spending, and privatisations.

Tax increases include

• A solidarity levy: At 1% for those earning between €12,000 (£10,800) and €20,000 a year, 2% for incomes between €20,000 and €50,000, 3% for those on €50,000 to €100,000, and 4% for those earning €100,000 or more. Lawmakers and public office holders will pay a 5% rate.

• A lower tax-free threshold: People will now pay tax on income over €8,000 a year, down from €12,000. This basic rate of tax will be set at 10%, with exemptions for those under 30, over 65, and the disabled.

• Sales tax: The VAT rate for restaurants and bars is being hiked from 13% to the new top rate of 23%. This rate already covers many products in the shops, including clothing, alcohol, electronics goods and some professional services.

Spending cuts include:

• Public sector wages: Salaries will be reduced by 15%.

• The public sector wage bill: The goal is to cut 150,000 public sector jobs, through a hiring freeze and abolition of all temporary contracts. This should cut the total bill by €2bn by 2015.

• Social benefits and pensions: The retirement age is being raised to 65. Increased means testing, and cuts to some benefits, will reduce the total amount spend on benefits by €1.09bn in 2011, then €1.28bn in 2012, €1.03bn in 2013, €1.01bn in 2014 and €700m in 2015.

10.16am: Welcome to the Guardian’s coverage of the protests in Greece and the vote on the mid-term bill in parliament.

The Greek government will hope to pass its austerity bill – a precondition of additional loans from the EU and IMF – in parliament against a backdrop of massive public opposition. Despite its unpopularity the bill is expected to pass. Greece has said it has funds only until mid-July, after which it will be unable to pay salaries and pensions, or service its debts, without the next bailout instalment The vote is expected anytime from 11am BST (1pm Greek time) onwards.

Trade Unionists have vowed to stop MPs getting into parliament for the vote but security in the centre of Athens is high. There are fears of more violent crashes after at least 46 people were injured, most of them police, yesterday as rioters pelted police with chunks of marble and ripped up paving stones, and authorities responded with repeated volleys of teargas and stun grenades.

Several hundred people gathered in front of parliament early today for fresh protests.

 

View the constantly updated live page at the guardian.co.uk.

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