Greek protesters turn out in thousands

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Thousands of people flooded central Athens Sunday evening on the fifth day of protests against government austerity policies after an online campaign inspired by Spanish demonstrators.

About 20,000 people assembled in the Greek capital's central Syntagma Square, police estimated, responding to calls on social networking sites for gatherings across Europe to demand "real democracy".

Below the parliament building, protesters held a placard claiming "poverty is the greatest abuse" while others beat empty pots, chanting "thieves".

"I'm here to say that I've had enough. It's not right to have to pay for politicians' mistakes," said teacher Vivi Villa, 34.

She admitted the action was unlikely to change anything. "But at least we will have told them we don't agree," Villa said.

Greece is struggling to build consensus over an unpopular austerity programme agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund after they rescued the country from bankruptcy with a huge bailout loan.

Sunday's gathering appeared to be the largest since protests began on Wednesday after the plans were circulated on Facebook.

The non-political, non-ideological demonstrations are modelled on a similar mobilisation in Spain led by a group calling themselves "the indignants."

In Greece protests are usually tightly controlled by unions and parties.

A poll on Sunday found most Greeks no longer have confidence in the country's political system to pull the debt-wrecked nation out of its deep economic crisis.

Some 57 percent also said they "approved or somewhat approved" of the protests against the country's leaders in the survey published in the daily To Vima.

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said Sunday he was confident about receiving Greece's next aid instalment.

The head of the eurozone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned last week that the International Monetary Fund may block the next 12-billion-euro (17-billion-dollar) installment, the fifth tranche in a 110-billion-euro loan package agreed for the country.

Der Spiegel reported that the European Union would follow suit unless Athens does more to fix its public finances.

© 2011 AFP

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