Greece Braces For "Mother Of All Strikes"
The pitched battles continued late into Wednesday night as some 7,000 specially deployed police prepared for a second day of confrontations. The Greek parliament on Wednesday took its first steps toward approving the economic plan insisted upon by foreign investors demanding wage and pension cuts and mass layoffs in return for European bail out funds.
Al Jazeera reports:
All 154 of the ruling Socialists' deputies voted in favour of the law, which faces further scrutiny and votes on specific article on Thursday before becoming law.
Earlier in the day, protesters in Athens, the capital, pushed up to the steps in front of the parliament building itself, setting fire to a sentry box occupied by ceremonial guards at the adjacent Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Police responded by firing rounds of tear gas into the crowd to calm the anger that is growing in Athens' Syntagma Square, the plaza next to the parliament which has become a focal point for anti-austerity protests.
More than 7,000 police had been assigned to the city to deal with anticipated trouble with hundreds in riot gear stationed near the parliament building.
Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, reporting from Athens, said the two-day shutdown was being described as "the mother of all strikes" as it involved every facet of public life.
"Protesters wanted it to be their day, to get their message across: ‘No to more swingeing cuts! No to a whole different life ahead!' Simmons reported.
Wednesday's strike and protests as much as shut down all public services and much of private commerce, bringing the country to a grinding halt.
The first day of protests came as leaders of the European Union huddled to draft a new rescue program for Greece before a scheduled summit this coming Sunday. Greece is currently in the third year of a deep recession and is mired in chin-high debt. Global investors are watching the Greek crisis closely, fearful that a default by Athens could reverberate through the entire world economy.
Greek labor officials say they have had enough cuts and will be massing in front of the Greek parliament on Thursday as final votes on the economic austerity plan are scheduled to take place.
More coverage of the Greek crisis from Neon Tommy here.
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