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article imageAthens protesters throw firebombs, police shoot tear gas (Video)

By Anne Sewell     Sep 26, 2012 in World
Athens - Protests have erupted into rage in Athens on Wednesday, as Greece shuts down with a 24-hour general strike over austerity measures.
As reported on Digital Journal, Greece is shutting down with a general strike on Wednesday. The 24-hour strike will involve both private sector and public sector workers, protesting against the latest round of Troika imposed austerity measures.
Calls for the strike came from the two largest trade unions in Greece, who represent half of Greece's workers.
In Athens, over 50,000 protesters have taken to the streets, shouting, "EU, IMF Out!" in the country's biggest anti-austerity rally since the new government came into power. However, the rally turned violent, when protesters started hurling Molotov cocktails at police, who in turn fired tear gas at protesters.
Reports have been received that security forces are also using flashbang grenades and pepper spray to keep protesters away from the Parliament building. Arrests were made after members of the radical leftist party Syriza clashed with riot police in the streets of Panepistimiou and Benaki.
Reportedly some 3,000 police officers, double the normal number, have been deployed in the capital to handle the protesters.
The general strike in Greece has halted transport and other industries throughout the country. Flights and trains were suspended, shops were shuttered and the hospitals were forced to rely on emergency staffing.
As well as the protest in Athens, thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Thessaloniki. According to Twitter, a large number of protesters are rallying peacefully in the streets in that city.
The reason for the general strike is that Greece has recently enacted a new round of spending cuts, totaling €11.5 billion ($15 billion). These measures are a precondition of another rescue loan from the European Central Bank. Without this bailout, Greece could reportedly face bankruptcy within a few weeks.
Costas Tsikrikas, head of the ADEDY public sector union told Reuters, "The new measures are unbearable, unfair and only worsen the crisis. We are determined to fight until we win. We call on all workers to join us in the march against the policies that the troika is imposing."
Yiorgos Harisis, a unionist from ADEDY told demonstrators, "Yesterday the Spaniards took to the streets, today it's us, tomorrow the Italians and the day after - all the people of Europe."
"With this strike we are sending a strong message to the government and the troika that the measures will not pass even if voted in parliament, because the government's days are numbered," he added.
Greece is struggling with record unemployment levels and over 30% of the country is living under the poverty line. The Greek government is planning to both reduce pensions, and also to increase the retirement age to 67, in order to try and reduce the country's budget problems.
Dina Kokou, a 54-year-old teacher and mother of four, who barely survives on 1,000 euros a month, said, "We can't take it anymore - we are bleeding. We can't raise our children like this. "These tax hikes and wage cuts are killing us."
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