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Tight security as Greece celebrates Independence Day

Police fired tear gas at anti-austerity protesters in clashes across Greece on Sunday as the country celebrated its independence from Ottoman rule amid unprecedented security measures.

Greece independence day 2012 03 25Enlarge
Demonstrators scuffle with riot police in Athens during Greece's Independence Day celebrations on March 25. (SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON, UK – Greece celebrated its Independence Day on Sunday amid unprecedented security measures as anti-austerity protests hit cities across the country.

Thousands of police, including hundreds in riot gear, cordoned off streets in the capital city of Athens to allow the country’s annual military parade to proceed, the Associated Press reported.

The public was banned from large sections of the route, and could not enter Syntagma Square, the main square in the center of the city, according to the BBC.

Low-hanging fruit from orange trees lining Athens’ pavements had been picked ahead of the march, to prevent them being thrown at politicians and officials.

Police fired volleys of tear gas at hundreds of protesters who tried to disrupt student parades in the cities of Heraklion and Chania on the island of Crete, Reuters reported.

Some 250 demonstrators hurled bottles and stones at police in the western port city of Patras, where 50 people were detained.

There were also reports of clashes and several dozen detentions in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, and the towns of Preveza and Veria in the north of the country, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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Athens has been forced to implement drastic austerity measures to meet the terms of a massive multibillion dollar international bailout package, from which the debt-ridden country, which will hold general elections in April or May, started receiving funds last week.

Public anger with the government has grown as the government has imposed further spending cuts and tax hikes during a severe financial crisis that has seen unemployment reach a record high of 21 percent. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120325/greece-celebrates-independence-day-under-tight-security