Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Greek riot police fire tear gas at farmers

Greek riot police fire tear gas at farmers

Greek riot police have fired tear gas at farmers to prevent them from driving their tractors to Athens to stage a demonstration.

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At least two people, including an opposition politician, were injured in scuffles between police and the protesters at the port of Piraeus outside the Greek capital.

The farmers are demanding financial help from the government and the tense stand off at Piraeus is the latest twist in nearly two weeks of protests.

The farmers, who had used their tractors to block border crossings and major raods across the country for days, complain that they are receiving low prices for their products.

"Farmers are not second-class citizens. All they want to do is make their presence felt," said Alekos Alavanos, an MP on the island of Crete and leader of the Left Coalition party leader.

About 1,000 farmers from Crete, as well as mayors of the island's towns and MPs, arrived in Piraeus on overnight ferries along with dozens of tractors, trucks and other agricultural vehicles they intended to drive through Athens to the agriculture ministry.

But Greek authorities said they would only be allowed to carry out a demonstration on foot, not with vehicles that would snarl up traffic in the capital.

"I am awaiting the farmers at the ministry. We consider the ministry to be the home of all farmers and our door is always open," said Michalis Papadopoulos, the deputy agriculture minister.

A group of farmers, black flags fluttering from their tractors, attempted to break through the police lines inside the port, and riot police fired tear gas to push them back.

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