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Thousands March In Greece Amid General Strike Over Austerity Measures


A woman protests in front of the Greek parliament during a demonstration march against austerity measures earlier this year.
Tens of thousands of people have been marching in cities throughout Greece to protest against new austerity measures even as lawmakers gave their initial approval.

All 154 of the ruling Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party's (PASOK) deputies voted in favor of the law, crucial for the country to receive a next batch of bailout funds and avoid bankruptcy.

The bill must be approved by article on October 20 to become law.

Police said some 70,000 people rallied outside parliament on October 19 in Athens while large demonstrations were held in Thesalloniki and other cities as well.

It was the biggest wave of demonstrations yet against the government-proposed tax hikes, pay cuts, and jobs losses. They came as Greece's two largest unions launched a 48-hour nationwide strike to protest the measures.

"With our presence in the streets, with our protests, with this organized strength, with all of us participating, including all the workers' unions, we will stop this bill from being voted in," said Thanasis Protellis, a metal worker participating in the protests.

"If it is voted in, we will continue to protest on the street in an effort to have it revoked in practice. This government must fall and all the parties that support these measures must fall with it."

In Athens, police fired tear gas at hooded youths hurling petrol bombs on the fringes of the massive antiausterity march.

The protest, said to be the biggest in years, has crippled public transport and shut down government offices, banks, schools, and shops.

The proposed austerity measures include more tax hikes, pay cuts and jobs losses.

Greece is struggling to reduce its huge public deficit and international lenders are increasingly demanding that Greece speeds up reforms in order to receive funds it needs to avoid default.

Prime Minister George Papandreou, in a final appeal on October 18, urged support for the austerity measures while comparing the situation Greece is facing to that of being at war.

compiled from agency reports