Thousands take to city streets to protest austerity


Thousands of people walked off the job for Wednesday's general strike, the first this year, with protesters joining anti-austerity rallies in Athens and other cities that were largely peaceful.

In the capital some 12,000 people took to the streets for two rallies – one organized jointly by civil servants’ union ADEDY and private sector union GSEE and the other by the Communist-affiliated union, PAME.

Shortly after the two rallies converged outside Parliament, where MPs were involved in a vehement debate about a new round of austerity measures promised by the government to creditors, a group of anti-establishment protesters broke away from the crowds and attacked riot police officers.

The hooded protesters hurled stones and flares at officers who responded by firing tear gas. There were no reports of injuries or arrests. But two stores – a jewelry and a bakery – had their facades destroyed by vandals.

Later in the day, six cars parked in the central Exarchia neighborhood were firebombed.

In the evening, members of the national union representing police officers staged a separate protest outside Parliament, where MPs continued their debate on austerity.

The union organized the rally to draw attention to the impact of years of belt-tightening on police officers’ salaries and the force’s ability to operate smoothly.