Tuesday, April 25, 2006
RICE GREETED BY STREET PROTESTS IN GREECE
A visit to Greece by the US Secretary of State has sparked mass protests in the capital. Thousands of people, mostly leftist and anti-war activists, have gathered, demanding that Condoleezza Rice leave the country. Large numbers of police have been deployed around Athens.
The first article below is from Ekathimerini (Greece). The second is from the Athens News Agency.
Rice to visit Athens today amid protests
Security boosted for US diplomat
Anti-war protesters and members of left-wing groups yesterday staged protests in central Athens against a visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after the Foreign Ministry said she would be arriving this morning, two days earlier than planned.
The ministry announced the change of plan on Sunday — the climax of the Orthodox Easter holiday — without giving an official reason but it is widely regarded as an attempt to limit the size of planned anti-war rallies. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) and members of anti-war groups responded by rescheduling their protest action, beginning with a demonstration outside Parliament yesterday and due to culminate today with two rallies in the city center.
“The minister of war and imperialism is not wanted in this country,” a party statement said.
KKE supporters held a rally outside Parliament yesterday but police stopped protesters from reaching the US Embassy. Some 20 people were detained.
Meanwhile, a group of 30 supporters of the Communist-affiliated union PAME tried to hoist a banner bearing anti-American slogans onto the roof of the Athens Concert Hall, adjacent to the US Embassy, but were stopped by police. Eight protesters restrained a security guard at the venue as the others tried to scale its facade, police said.
Traffic in central Athens will be severely restricted for most of today because of the two demonstrations. Some 5,000 police officers will also be mobilized.
Police will monitor every step of Rice’s agenda and watch potential targets of anti-US ire. A similar demonstration is due to take place in Thessaloniki at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, Rice is due to have talks with her counterpart, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, on the situation in Iraq and Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program as well as Cyprus and Greek-Turkish relations. Rice is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis before leaving Athens to continue her tour of the region, which includes a trip to Ankara and possibly Nicosia.
Yesterday, opposition politicians’ reaction to Rice’s visit ranged from skepticism to outrage. “It must be clear that the Greek people oppose any prospect of war,” PASOK MP Christos Papoutsis said.
The leader of Synaspismos Left Coalition, Alekos Alavanos, was more outspoken. “A few days after the resurrection, the foreign minister of the USA comes to Athens as a messenger of war,” he said, adding that Rice was “persona non grata” in Greece.
Protests in Athens, Thessaloniki against Rice visit
Protests against a working visit to Greece by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday were held in Athens and the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki by mainly left-wing groups but were prevented from approaching the streets where the US official would pass by a strong police presence.
A protest organised by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Stop the War organisation began at the University's Proylae on Tuesday morning, while the Greek Social Forum held a separate rally at Klathmonos Square. Two separate marches were also held in Thessaloniki, one organised by KKE and another by the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party.
The KKE/Stop the War march headed towards Syntagma Square via Panepistimiou Avenue, but were blocked by police at Amerikis Street.
Protestors changed course heading towards Academias Street instead.
A demonstration and march organised by the Greek Social Forum began at Klafthmonos Square in downtown Athens, chanting slogans such as "Hands off Iran" and "Greeks are not eager", expressing their opposition to US foreign policy.
Minor incidents were reported at the Panepistimiou Avenue and Amerikis Street intersection when some protestors tried to break through the police blockade interrupting their march towards Syntagma Square.
Police used tear gas to force protestors to head towards Academias Street.
The Greek Social Forum demonstration, as well as the one organised by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), ended on Tuesday afternoon.
Two separate protest marches were scheduled to take place in Thessaloniki, one organized by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and PAME at Venizelos Square at 7pm on Tuesday evening, while the protest rally organized by the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party, the Greek Social Forum and the ?Alliance - Stop the War? will be held at Kamara, also at 7pm.
The KKE protest march, scheduled to take place after the rally, will end up outside the US Consulate. The organizers of the other protest march have not provided specific information