At least three people have been killed in riots in Greece following the government's plan to stabilize the economic situation there, but which threatens the cushy financial situation of most of the Greek population that relies on a steady diet of government pensions and salaries.
Tear gas drifted across the city's center as hundreds of rioters hurled paving stones and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with heavy use of tear gas.The government proposed billions in cuts in return for an extension of a credit lifeline from the EU, necessary to stave off bankruptcy as the Greek government hovers in junk bond territory.
At least two buildings were set on fire and later extinguished, while protesters set up burning barricades in the streets. At least three cars and a fire truck were torched.
The fire brigade said the bodies were found in the wreckage of a Marfin Bank branch, on the route of the march in the city center.
Demonstrators chanting "thieves, thieves" attempted to break through a riot police cordon guarding Parliament and chased the ceremonial guards away from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the building.
An estimated 100,000 people took to the streets as part of nationwide strikes to protest austerity measures imposed as a condition of bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund and other eurozone governments. The bailout is needed to keep heavily indebted Greece from defaulting on its debts.
Mr. Papandreou’s reforms, which aim to squeeze savings of 30 billion euros through 2012, include cuts to salaries in Greece’s sprawling public sector, higher taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, and tighter retirement rules. They are part of an effort to clear the way for a 110-billion euro rescue package aimed at preventing the debt-ridden country from defaulting.
The strikes on Wednesday shut hospitals, schools and tourism sights across the Greek capital, including the Acropolis, where several dozen protesters from the Communist Party broke the locks at the entrance to the monument on Tuesday and spread banners saying, “Peoples of Europe — Rise Up.”