Masked protestors tossed red paint and flares at the shield-bearing officers who guarded a narrow ladder leading to the parliament building in a scene reminiscent of the movie ‘300’.
Several troublemakers then began striking riot shields with sticks and even managed to break one of them. Police initially kept their cool but eventually retaliated, using sound bombs to disperse the attackers.
However, it turned out to be a tactical retreat as scuffles reignited after a short break, with Syntagma filling with thick white smoke. Tear gas was fired as police attempted to repel several waves of charging rioters.
Nine officers were wounded during the scuffles at Syntagma, the police told AP. There have so far been no reports on the injured among the ranks of the protestors.
The rally in front of parliament started peacefully, with countless demonstrators carrying Greek flags and singing the national anthem. They also chanted slogans, denouncing the “treacherous” Macedonia name-change deal, and urging Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to not ratify it.
The organizers announced from the stage that more than 100,000 gathered in Athens for the protests. But with buses still delivering demonstrators to the capital from various parts of the country, they said that they expected a turnout of at least 600,000.
The majority of protestors said to be coming from the northern Greek region of Macedonia. People there – like many others in Greece – believe that their neighboring state, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), appropriated their cultural heritage by choosing the same name back in 1991.
© Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis
In order to end the lengthy dispute, which saw Greece blocking Macedonia’s access to the EU and NATO, the countries reached the Prespes agreement last year. FYROM will be renamed the ‘Republic of North Macedonia’ in accordance with the deal, but the half-measure didn’t seem to satisfy most of the Greek population.
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