Massive turnout for Syntagma rally [update]

Thousands of public and private sector workers marched to Parliament on Wednesday to protest a series of draft bills introducing more austerity measures to cash-strapped Greece as part of a 48-hour strike that has paralyzed the country.

Police, who turned out in force with over 3,000 officers posted in the downtown Athens area, estimated the turnout to be at around 75,000 people, though some media reported numbers as high as 125,000, making this one of the biggest protest rallies in Greece in recent years.

The rally was mostly peaceful, though not without incident as scuffles that broke out between riot police officers and hooded youths who hurled garbage bags, stones and petrol bombs at them, escalated in the afternoon, with police using large amounts of tear gas to disperse protestors.

Dozens of protestors received treatment from medics posted at various points on and around the square after experiencing breathing difficulties from the tear gas and sustaining minor injuries from being caught in the cross-fire between youths wearing hoods, scarves and gas masks, and riot police.

One police officer was also being treated at an Athens hospital after being attacked by a group of rioters, who reportedly removed his gun from his holster. His condition, according to reports, was not serious.

The troublemakers also hurled a Molotov cocktail at the guard post in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of Parliament, setting it alight.

Meanwhile, a member of the DIAS motorcycle-riding squad was hurt earlier in the day when a group of teenagers threw stones at a unit patrolling the neighborhood of Kesariani, just a few kilometers from the city center.

Police also reported that a group of hooded youths attacked a riot squad posted outside the National Printing House on Kapodistriou Street with homemade petrol bombs, while another group of youths tried to break through a metal barricade set up beside Parliament to contain protestors on Syntagma Square.

Protest rallies are expected to gain momentum on Thursday, when Parliament is due to vote on the reform measures.

Protest rallies were also organized in other Greek cities, including in Thessaloniki, Patra and Volos, as well as on the island of Crete.

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