ATHENS, Greece – More than 10,000 demonstrators marched through central Athens to the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of a 1973 student uprising against the military dictatorship then ruling Greece.
Minor clashes broke out when stone-throwing youths attacked riot police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. No injuries or arrests were immediately reported.
More than 6,000 police were deployed in the capital, and roads along the demonstration route were blocked off, as anarchists often take advantage of Nov. 17 marches to attack police and damage shops and banks.
With Greece in the midst of a severe financial crisis that has seen the government impose strict cost-cutting measures, this year's demonstration was taking on an anti-austerity plan flavor, with protesters holding banners bearing slogans against the International Monetary Fund and European Union.
"Stand up to the IMF junta," read one banner, while demonstrators chanted: "We want to work, not the reforms and unemployment."
Greece's finances are under strict supervision by the IMF and the EU, who are extending the cash-strapped country a three-year €110 billion rescue loan package that saved it from defaulting on its debts earlier this year. In return for the loans, the government has cut civil service salaries, trimmed pensions and increased taxes.
The government submits its full 2011 budget to Parliament on Thursday. The document is widely expected to include additional measures, although the prime minister has pledged these will not involve further salary cuts or new taxes.
The Nov. 17 demonstration is held to commemorate the uprising at the Athens Polytechnic, which was crushed by the junta, and to protest American support for the 1967-74 junta. The exact death toll from the events in November 1973 has never been definitively established, but some say dozens of people were killed in the days around the student uprising.
Riot police were preventing access to the Polytechnic building — which is often used as a safe-haven by anarchist rioters seeking to evade the authorities. Under Greek law, police are not allowed into university campuses.