Athens: Police in Athens fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters on Wednesday as thousands of Greeks walked off the job to join the debt-ridden country's first general strike this year and oppose austerity measures.
About 15,000 striking workers took part in a Communist-organized demonstration in Athens and 20,000 more joined protests organized by other unions, according to police figures. Another 15,000 people marched in Greece's northern metropolis Thessaloniki, local authorities said.
Protesters tried to firebomb a car in Athens and threw rocks at police, while in the city of Iraklio, demonstrators overturned a squad car, police said. In Thessaloniki, a TV crew car was torched and protesters smashed the front windows of pawn shops.
"Unpaid bills, slashed wages and pensions, boarded-up shops. Greek people cannot wait for saviours. Only by taking their fortunes into their own hands can they exit the stalemate," main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, head of the radical leftist Syriza party, told reporters. The nationwide strike - the first general work stoppage in Greece this year - forced airport authorities to scrap or reschedule dozens of flights while hospitals operated on reduced staffing. Ships were to remain docked throughout the day, disrupting ferry services to the islands. And although most public transport was to run, buses and train services expected disruptions. Doctors, lawyers and teachers took part in the protest.