Greek farmers clash with riot police in Athens over a proposed new property tax

ATHENS, Greece – Farmers from the Greek island of Crete clashed with police Friday outside Greece’s parliament in Athens as lawmakers debated a bill that will expand an unpopular property tax to farms and previously untaxed properties.

Hundreds of farmers took an overnight ferry to protest in the capital and were joined by farmers from the southern mainland. They hurled oranges at riot police and battered their shields with traditional shepherds’ walking sticks.

The new tax, due to be voted upon Saturday, is part of measures required by international creditors under Greece’s bailout agreements. The debt-ridden nation has been kept afloat since 2010 by the bailout funds.

“We only have one demand: Not to tax our farms, because this is what we need to operate our business, the same way factories have machinery,” said protest organizer Panagiotis Peveretos, who met lawmakers to discuss the protesters’ grievances.

“They told us they understand our position but cannot bring down the government over this,” he said.

Greece’s conservative-led coalition government, which holds 154 seats in the 300-member parliament, struggled with dissent from lawmakers, mostly representing rural constituencies before submitting the bill.

One prominent conservative indicated he would vote against it.

“How more weight can be put on the backs of the people?” lawmaker Vyron Polydoras said in parliament. “This is a heavy and unbearable tax.”