Violence erupts as Greeks stage general strike
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Police clashed with protesters on Thursday as thousands marched in a second national strike against government plans to cut spending and raise taxes to shrink the huge deficit and get Greece's faltering economy back on track.
Violence erupted on the fringes of a Greek protest against government austerity measures Thursday, with riot police firing tear gas at hooded youths who hurled firebombs and vandalised stores.
Clashes erupted at the start of a union protest and outside the nation's parliament as Greece was gripped by a second general strike in two weeks.
Soon afterwards more youths broke out of a 300-strong anarchist bloc and attacked police outside parliament, vandalising a dozen stores in the surrounding area, police said.
Hundreds of riot police were deployed across Athens as Greece’s two largest labour unions called on millions of workers to strike against unpopular and painful austerity measures proposed by the government to resolve the country’s acute debt crisis.
Greece’s private sector union GSEE and its public sector sister ADEDY, which represent half of the country’s labour force, have rejected the government’s massive spending cuts and tax hikes announced last week.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government is struggling to get to grips with the country’s spiralling budget deficit, which amounted to12.7 percent of output last year, and a national debt of nearly 300 billion euros.
EU policymakers, rating agencies and financial markets have welcomed the latest austerity package, but want to see it implemented quickly and smoothly. For that to take place, public support is crucial.
Nathalie Saverias, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Athens, said national anger at the austerity measures was mounting. “People say they cannot tolerate these measures, which will affect every member of Greek society.”
Public transport was paralysed in Athens Thursday, with no buses or trams running. Only one underground train line was operational in the capital.
Hospitals were manned by skeleton staff and only admitted emergency cases. Schools, hospitals, museums and archaeological sites were also closed for the 24-hour strike.
Even journalists went on strike, with the national news agency ANA stopping its tickers, while newspaper staff took to the streets with the rest.
Tax and rubbish collectors have been on strike since the start of the week.
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