SQUADS of the Greek anti-terrorist units and riot police armed with automatic weapons, early on Thursday morning occupied the small coastal town of Ierissos in northern Greece, about 100km east of Salonica.
The armed police raided houses in the town of those accused of attacking the installations of the gold mining company Greek Gold last week.
For over two years, Ierissos’ inhabitants have been fighting against the Greek Gold mining activities which they say destroy the forest and pollute the environment. The vast majority of the people of Ierissos make a living out of agriculture and tourism.
The police operation, likened by the town’s inhabitants to a ‘foreign army occupation’, triggered off mass protests with people confronting the armed police and demanding that they be withdrawn from the town.
Instead the police attacked them, making extensive use of tear-gas. People then set up barricades and made fires to lessen the tear-gas’ effects. The clashes between the town’s inhabitants and the armed police spread to the fields around the town.
Tear-gas choked up the town and a canister hit a boy in a school yard. Students came out in the streets and were confronted by riot-police. Four 15-year-old students were arrested. Despite the Ierissos’ school headmaster’s protests to the town’s police station, the military-style operation continued all day.
The Salonica director of the office of public prosecutor Panagis Yiannakis called a joint meeting for yesterday morning of Ierissos representatives, the area’s Mayor Christos Pakhtas and the chief of police Athinagoras Pazarlis.
The meeting did not take place as both the Mayor and the chief of police refused to attend. The Ierissos people’s committee issued a statement saying that Mayor Pakhtas is not welcome in the town. In 2003, Pakhtas resigned as deputy Finance Minister after being accused of involvement in illegal negotiations for the sale of the gold mines.
Thousands of people demonstrated in Salonica on Thursday against the police operation at Ierissos.
In Athens on Thursday about 3,000 college and university students marched through the city centre against the government’s scheme to close down at least one third of all college and university departments throughout Greece.
On Friday workers in the archaeology and monuments sectors staged a one-day national strike and all museums and sites remained shut.