Police battle protesters as strike cripples Greece

Greek protesters clashed with police in Athens on Thursday, as the country endures its second strike against government austerity measures aimed at ending Greece’s debt crisis. Police fired tear gas to break up groups of youths outside the national parliament, where unions had called a demonstration.


"People are furious about government measures against workers' rights," Michalis Kanotas from the All-Workers Militant Front told RFI.

There were clashes in other parts of Athens, where dozens of hooded youths threw firebombs and stones at police and burned a car.

About 300 protesters attacked police and vandalised a dozen stores in the area near the Athens Polytechnic, police said.

Unions called out more than one million people on strike in the latest challenge to spending cuts by the Socialist Government aiming to reduce the public deficit of 12.7 percent of output, and a debt mountain of nearly 300 billion euros.

The stoppage crippled public transport and closed schools, hospitals and government offices.

Thousands gathered at various points across Athens holding banners blasting the Government and the European Union, which is pressing Greece to enforce even tougher measures.

"Even if they terrorise us, the measures will not pass through," one banner proclaimed.
Air traffic controllers walked off the job at midnight and ships were anchored as port workers joined the strike.

"I think the answer of the working class […] was a rather loud message to the government," Kanotas said.

Christos Fotopoulos, head of a police union, said officers were taking part in rallies in uniform as "the governmental measures are painful and they erase bonuses which account for 50 percent of our salary."

Similar protests last Friday, as the parliament pushed through the latest 4.8 billion euro austerity package, also degenerated into violence as police clashed with demonstrators.

Prime Minister George Papandreou received support from an unexpected source Wednesday when the head of the country's employers federation came out in support of the austerity measures.

"Between bankruptcy and recession, between the devil and the deep blue sea, there is no other alternative to the abyss," employers chief Dimitris Daskalopoulos said.

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