THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Residents of a northern Greek village clashed with authorities during protests against a Canadian company's plans to operate a gold mine in the area, and special police units were called in to patrol the streets.
Police said two officers were hurt after residents clashed with riot police who were escorting public prosecutors into the village on Greece's Halkidiki peninsula, a popular vacation spot. The protesters said police fired tear gas into a school yard — a claim denied by authorities.
Police have been conducting frequent searches in the village of Ierissos, looking for evidence in connection with a February nighttime raid on the mining company's facilities during which people set fire to machinery.
Officers from special and riot police units patrolled the streets during searches of several homes whose occupants were allegedly linked to the February attack. The mining facilities are being operated by the Vancouver, Canada-based, Eldorado Gold Corp.
The Greek government says the gold mine would provide badly needed overseas investment and create jobs during a time of national economic crisis. Local activists argue the mine would damage the environment in an area with a highly developed tourism industry and put farmers out of business.
The government says it has imposed strict environmental standards for the mining project, by the clashes rekindled political tension. "Police work could have been conducted in a different way. But the aim of these actions is to intimidate the local community that is demonstrating against the environmental destruction of their region," lawmaker Evangelos Apostolou, a spokesman for the left-wing Syriza party, told parliament.
On Thursday, residents set up a roadblock at the village's entrance, burning tires to prevent the riot police from entering Ierissos. Police said tear gas was fired at protesters manning the roadblock.
A former local mayor, Michalis Vlachopoulos, said tear gas also was fired inside the village, including in the yard of a high school, and that students were suffering breathing problems. Police denied the allegation. "We categorically deny claims made in the news media that (tear gas) was used at a school and outside homes in the area," a police statement said.
It said two police officers suffered minor injuries after being hit by rocks thrown by protesters. No arrests were made. __ AP writer Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed