Clashes blight austerity protest
Isolated violence, including an attack on photographers by police, mar otherwise peaceful day
Thousands of Greeks walked off the job on Wednesday to protest the government's ongoing austerity drive, in the first general strike since June, and joined protest rallies which were small by Greek standards, but were marred by isolated outbreaks of violence.
In the early afternoon, when two marches - one organized by the Communist-affiliated labor union PAME and the other by the country's two main labor unions - converged in front of Parliament, dozens of hooded youths hurled stones at police, who responded by firing tear gas.
A large crowd of protesters taunted police, calling them "traitors" and "murderers," and there were reports of several injuries to both officers and demonstrators during the scuffles that ensued. Several photographers covering the demonstration accused police of violent attacks against them and there were reports late on Wednesday that a group of photojournalists were planning to take legal action against the force.
The country's two labor unions were clearly disappointed with the turnout at the rallies - put at 13,000 by police and at 25,000 by organizers - but stressed that another general strike, scheduled for October 19, would draw a larger crowd. As is usual, the strike paralysed international travel - with Greek air space closed for 24 hours, the national rail service suspended and ferries moored in ports - though public transport workers ran a limited service to allow demonstrators to attend protest rallies. Public services were disrupted too, with tax offices, courts and schools shut down for the day while hospitals were operating on skeleton staffs.
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