Flotilla leaders: Strike in Greece delaying our departure

Organizers say 10 ships from European ports supposed to have already met in int'l waters off Gaza; riots in Athens follow parliament’s approval of austerity measures.

By NEWS AGENCIES
June 30, 2011 01:01
2 minute read.
Mavi Marmara

flotilla 311. (photo credit: Creative Commons)

 
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The flotilla intending to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza is being held up by a general strike in Greece, the organizers said on Wednesday.

Three ships have set sail from other European ports and another seven were supposed to have already left from Greece to rendezvous with them in international waters off Gaza, according to the organizers. Some of the vessels were still awaiting authorization from the Greek Port Authority to leave, they said.

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“We are awaiting the OK to go; we expect it any day, and there’s been a delay from all the strikes going on here,” said Medea Benjamin, a spokesman for the flotilla, speaking by phone from Athens.

A 48-hour general strike in Greece scheduled to end at midnight on Wednesday night had been called in response to the day’s scheduled vote by Greek lawmakers on an austerity plan. The measure aimed at staving off default for the debt-laden nation was approved by 155 votes to 138.

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The vote in parliament drove frustrated Greeks to the streets in a violent protest that stood out even against the reality of almost weekly protests in Athens’s Syntagma Square.

Police fired tear gas and battled masked demonstrators who attacked the Finance Ministry and set fire to a post office on the ground floor.

Violence stemming from opposition to the austerity plan started even as the votes were being counted.

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The “Anonymous” team of hackers on Wednesday evening succeeded in bringing down the Greek parliament’s website, Channel 1 reported.

With Greece stuck in its worst recession since the 1970s, and a youth unemployment rate of more than 40 percent, ordinary people face years of grim austerity and many feel deeply resentful of Greek politicians, the EU and the banks.

“Cops, pigs, murderers,” the crowd chanted at a line of helmeted riot police as flash bombs and tear gas canisters thrown by police to drive back the crowd filled the square outside parliament with stinging white smoke.

Another group tried to set fire to an office block housing a branch of one of Greece’s biggest banks, while across the square, the luxury King George Hotel was evacuated.

Doctors working with the demonstrators said they had treated at least 25 people for minor injuries and 192 people with respiratory problems at the adjacent Syntagma metro station. At least 40 police officers were hurt, the police union said.

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