Clashes with riot police as protestors converge outside TIF site

Riot police guarding the 76th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), where Prime Minister George Papandreou is due to deliver the premier's traditional annual speech on the economy later on Saturday evening, resorted to heavy use of tear gas in order to disperse protestors from several demonstrations that converged onto the TIF site on Saturday.

A total of 62 people were detained by police for 'precautionary reasons' by Saturday evening and two people were arrested, one for carrying fireworks and one for violations of weapons laws.

    In a square near to the TIF exhibition facilities, groups of youths were attacking police with stones, leading to extensive use of teargas.

    Earlier on, protesting taxi owners from areas throughout Greece clashed with riot police guarding outside TIF's south gate, just hours before the prime minister was due to speak at the exhibition's 'I. Vellidis' conference centre.

    Taxi owners, who had earlier camped out in front of the gates, threw bottles and other objects at police, who responded with restricted use of stun grenades. As tension continued to rise, however, they resorted to using tear gas in order to disperse a crowd of demonstrators that were moving toward them throwing objects and flares.

    The protest by taxi-owners had begun earlier on Saturday afternoon with a gathering at a local sports centre, from which they started to march toward the TIF site at 5:30 p.m.

    Earlier on, the Athens taxi owners' association (SATA) president Thymios Lymberopoulos had assured his members that all opposition parties were on their side and that they would not vote for the bill liberalising the taxi sector.

    In the meantime, rallies organised by trade unions, students, the indignant citizens' movement, the 'I won't pay' movement and parties of the Left were also gathering around the trade fair.

    Rallies organised by the country's two largest trade union organisations, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the public-sector staff union federation ADEDY, as well as the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) political party, were underway in front of the Venizelos statue.

    Students from sit-in demonstrations gathered at Thessaloniki University technical school headed toward Kamara to join with other groups and then the Indignant Citizens at Thessaloniki's White Tower. From there they plan to make their way to the Vellidis conference centre and then go back to the university in order to protect their sit-in.

    Also at Kamara are demonstrators from the extra-parliamentary Left and anti-establishment movements, who will also march to the Vellidis centre.

    Iraklis soccer club supporters are also among the demonstrators planning to go to the conference centre, to protest against their team's demotion to the third division.

    From around 7:00 p.m. the above rallies have started to march toward the Vellidis conference centre from the various locations in the city.


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