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Greek Parliament approves austerity bill as riots rage in Athens

By Christine Pirovolakis –

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s Parliament passed an austerity and debt-relief bill on Monday as rioters in Athens looted shops and set buildings on fire.

The austerity bill was supported by 199 of the 300 members of Parliament, , while the coalition government expelled 43 deputies over dissent in the crucial debt vote, reducing their majority from 236 to 193.

Athens must now persuade its international lenders, the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund that it has the will to implement the spending cuts and public-sector reforms required to release $171 billion in emergency loans.

Thick clouds of smoke and tear gas filled the air around Parliament as the voting took place. Demonstrators torched more than 20 buildings, including apartments, shops, banks, cafes, two cinemas and a museum.

Police clashed with more than 2,000 anarchists carrying clubs and gasoline bombs on dozens of fronts across the city.

More than 80 people, including 30 police officers, were reported injured and 25 arrests were made, police said.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos appealed for calm as the voting began in Parliament.

“The destruction taking place outside this building has no place in democracy,” Papademos said. “I call on the public to show calm — during this crucial and serious period we do not have the luxury of this type of protest.”

Earlier, thousands of protesters, many of them wearing gas masks, marched to Parliament to rally against the drastic cuts, which include cutting the minimum wage by 22 per cent, pension cuts and laying off one in five civil servants.

While most of the protesters were peaceful, several hundred of them fought alongside anarchists at various locations around the city center, tearing chunks of marble broken off the fronts of luxury hotels and shops.

Among those who joined the campaign against Greece accepting a bailout in return for harsh measures were composer Mikis Theodorakis, 86, and veteran leftist politician Manoli Glezos, 89.

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