Protesting Greek police pepper-sprayed

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A retired military officer carries a Greek flag during a protest against planned austerity measures outside the Greek parliament in Athens, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. Greece's economy will have contracted by 25 percent by the time the recession ends, the finance minister said Tuesday, as the government remained locked in talks with rescue lenders for its next major austerity program. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek police officers staged a protest outside the prime minister's office on Thursday, with some even getting pepper-sprayed as they demonstrated against new austerity measures the government is planning.

Officers guarding the central Athens building sought to push back the 20 demonstrators, who held up a banner that read "Protect those who protect you." No arrests were reported by authorities.

"We staged a small protest together with colleagues from the Coast Guard and the Fire Service. We wanted to hand over a petition to the government," Grigoris Bakaris, a senior member of the Greek Police Officers' Association who joined the protest.

"There was an argument — I wouldn't call it a scuffle, but an argument — and that was a very limited use of chemicals (pepper spray) and the incident ended there. We later were allowed to hand in our petition."

Authorities responded to the protest by padlocking entrances to a public park near the prime minister's office, leaving more than 20 tourists stranded inside for over an hour.

Elsewhere in Athens, meanwhile, public transport workers staged a 24-hour strike, halting subway and tram services.

Judges and doctors at public hospitals also began protests this week, turning away most cases in a slow-down strike, while tax workers are to strike Friday.

Athenian Stelios Noussas drove to work because of the subway strike, but said he supported the protest.

"They're striking for their rights. We're all in the same boat," he said. "If we don't have strikes how will we pursue our rights? Good for them."

Thursday's police protest took place as conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras resumed meetings with the leaders of parties backing his coalition government later to discuss a new austerity package worth at least €11.5 billion ($15 billion).

The package is expected to include more salary and pension cuts. Critics say it's just going to make the recession worse and make it more difficult for Greece to pay down its debts.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said the three-party negotiations had again failed to reach a final deal on the 2013-14 cuts.

Asked when he thought the agreement would be reached, he replied: "I don't know. I think it will take a few more days."