Greece erupts as men from IMF prepare to wield axe

Anger is intensifying over cuts to be made as part of the EU deal to save the economy

MAY DAY protests in Greece turned violent yesterday as youths in gas masks and hoods set fire to vehicles, smashed shop fronts and threw molotov cocktails and rocks at police in an explosion of fury over austerity measures they claim will hurt only the poor.

Tourists were cut off from their hotels as thousands of communists, civil servants and private-sector workers converged on a main square in Athens to vent their rage at the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“No to the IMF’s junta,” they chanted as a youth in a black hood produced a hammer to try to smash windows of the luxury Grande Bretagne hotel.

Another painted anti-capitalist slogans on the facade, and demonstrators intervened to prevent him from spraying an Australian woman with paint as she tried to get back into the hotel. Japanese tourists stood taking photographs of the mayhem with mobile phones before being forced to retreat, coughing and sneezing, under a cloud of tear gas.

The violence came as negotiations were concluding between the socialist government of George Papandreou, the IMF and the EU over a multi-billion-euro rescue package for Greece.

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