Riot police have deployed tear gas and stun grenades at nationalist protesters in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, angry at Athens’ rapprochement with Macedonia. Demonstrators responded with rocks, projectiles, and insults.
Footage of the clashes shows police attempting to push back the protesters, who turned out to picket this year’s annual trade fair where Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was due to deliver an address.
Through the clouds of rising smoke, those that turned out to picket returned fire with projectiles and laser pointers, while others unfurled banners with slogans like “killuminati” and “no new world order.”
After being temporarily pushed back by police, a renewed attempt to move forward by the crowd armed with fireworks and a flaming bin was met with volleys of teargas.
More than 15,000 people were taking part in the protest, police told Reuters. The organizers, meanwhile, had promised to take “hundreds of thousands” to the streets. At least 6,000 police officers and security forces had been deployed ahead of the event, local media said.
A bizarre scene played out when one of the protesters went forth with an Orthodox icon of what looked like the Virgin Mary. The large icon was then apparently hit by a round of tear gas, sending sparks flying.
The protesters gathered to rally against the deal between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, signed back in June, which aimed to end a decades-long dispute over the former Yugoslav republic’s name. Since 1991, Greece has objected to its neighbor being called Macedonia as the name conflicts with the historic Greek province of the same name. The state was admitted to the UN as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (sometimes abbreviated as FYROM or FYR Macedonia).
The deal signed this June envisaged renaming the small Balkan nation as the Republic of North Macedonia. The agreement, hailed by the EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini, faced fierce resistance in both states.
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