Minister defends police as Athens picks up the pieces

Athens began picking up the pieces yesterday following an intense day of rioting on Wednesday, as the government attempted to defend the police from accusations by opposition parties of heavy-handedness.

Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis said that the police had faced an ?urban rebellion.? He claimed that the rioters had wanted to break through the police ring around Parliament and disrupt the vote on the midterm fiscal plan. ?They wanted to prevent the bill being passed, so the country would go bankrupt,? he said. ?A lot of money has been staked on the country?s bankruptcy.?

Police sources rejected accusations that officers used excessive amounts of tear gas and were too aggressive. They said riot police came under a sustained attack, leading to 131 officers being injured. They also defended the firing of tear gas into Syntagma metro station by saying that rioters were using it as a base to launch their attacks.

The explanations given by the government and the police did not convince the opposition parties, who criticized the way the situation was handled. Opposition leaders also raised concerns about video footage which showed three men who had their faces covered and were wielding iron bars apparently being escorted to safety by riot police. They said it looked as if the police were employing provocateurs. Two of the men were identified as employees of the ETHEL bus company.

The City of Athens said it will cost 55,000 euros to repair the 176 dumpsters vandalized on Wednesday. Businesses will have to pay 520,000 euros to repair the damage caused by rioters.

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