May 5th, 2010
04:53 PM ET

3 dead in Greece protests

[Updated at 4:52 p.m.] Read the full CNN.com story

[Updated at 8:36 a.m.] Three people have died in a fire caused by a petrol bomb at an Athens bank during protests in the capital, Greek firefighters told CNN on Wednesday.

[Posted at 8:15 a.m.] Police sirens and the smell of tear gas filled the streets around Greece's parliament building Wednesday after protests against government spending cuts turned violent.

Riot police in helmets and shields kept back protesters who threw bottles, sticks, and rocks. Booms pierced the air every time the police fired canisters of tear gas at the crowds.

A mass of protesters made it onto the steps in front of the Greek parliament building early in the afternoon before riot police pushed them back.

Members of the parliamentary economic committee are inside the building reviewing a package of austerity measures to contain Greece's spiralling debt. The measures are highly unpopular in Greece and the protesters on the steps demanded that the lawmakers come outside and face them.

The protests happened amid a general strike by thousands of public sector workers unhappy with the austerity measures, which largely target them. Private sector workers joined them on the picket lines Wednesday, along with thousands of transport workers - which brought transportation services to a halt.

Police estimated there were 15,000 workers were on the streets of Athens, but unions said there were many more. Among them were teachers, bank employees and doctors.

Throughout the capital, about 1,700 officers stood guard to maintain order.

The workers are protesting cuts in spending that the government says are needed to pull the country out of debt.

The Greek Parliament is expected to vote on the austerity measures - which include wage freezes and higher taxes - by the end of Thursday.

The Finance Ministry said the austerity bill goes before a parliamentary committee Wednesday and will be up for debate by the whole body the following day.

Tuesday, about 2,000 protesters representing teachers from the public sector marched past the Finance Ministry and Parliament.

In central Athens, protesters threw plastic bottles and sticks at riot police. At another demonstration, members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) erected large banners near the Parthenon. "People of Europe Rise Up," said one.

The European Union announced a 110 billion euro ($145 billion) aid package for Greece on Sunday. Soon after, Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou announced the tough cost-cutting measures to meet European Union and International Monetary Fund conditions for the deal.

The package includes a promise by Greece to cut its budget deficit to 3 percent of the country's gross domestic product, as required by European Union rules, by 2014, according to Papaconstantinou.

The measures, he said, were needed for Greece to secure its financial lifeline.

Greece has a choice between "destruction" and survival, and "we have chosen, of course, to save the country," Papaconstantinou said.

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soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Max Headroom

    Doesn't Germany still owe Greece War reparations in the amount of 30 billion?

    May 5, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. Richard

    To Max,

    That has absolutely nothing to do with the utter chaos that's going on now.
    If anybody should be rioting and filled with outrage, it's the German taxpayer.
    I simply cannot believe all salary and holidays the averager Greek public sector worker gets.

    Simply spoiled. Germany decides to be nice and pay the huge billions of Euros to bail out Greece. Instead of saying thank you, what do they say ? They complain and riot.

    Unbelievable.

    NYU's Nouriel Roubini was right. Countries with bad sovereign debt conditions like Greece should have never been admitted in to the EU.
    Again, where were the ratings agencies in all this ?

    May 5, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. michaelxq

    To Richard...

    Richard, Germans were going to give Greece huge billions of Euros if some meters applied. As for the salary is not huge. More than 50% of the workers get for a salary 750 Euros. The benefits are helping them to cope economic. Also Greece wasn't wealthy as a country true, but in order to get admitted into EU and specially into Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) money is not the issue. It's the stability as a nation. If the issue was economic, neither Bulgaria nor Romania should admitted into EU

    May 5, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. SMC

    Greece's economic situation is just the tip of the iceberg.
    Greed fueled by lack of governmental transparency, apathetic voters , complacent
    taxpayers sated by their credit fueled consumerism and a "more for less" mentality is a universal malaise which affects our society as a whole. What happens when the well runs dry and the bailouts outnumber the benefactors ?

    May 5, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  5. Marco_Polo

    It is rediculous to blame the Greek people as lazy and corrupted. If this is the case then should we blame the German people for the past ?? and all the troubles their country caused to Europe?? and to trhe whole world some years ago?? Probably not.

    This would be immature ansd unfair. Instead I propose that all workers unite in their own country for better working conditions,higher salaries, better educations and health care.

    May 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe Avery

    Greece is getting and will get what they deserve. Have a society based on lies, cheating and stealing and look at what you get. And the citizens can't blame the government, it's a society issue.

    May 6, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JAD

    Maybe if Greece doesn't want to pay it's debt they should be forced out of the EU and anything they want has to be cash on delivery, if they have nothing to eat or wear they might change there mind. Funny how they call it austerity because they obviously have been living way beyond there means and have no intention of living within there ability to pay.

    May 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Marcos Collet

    I never understood the "why blame the Greeks for being lazy/corrupted, if so, should we blame the Germans for the past?" argument. The greek crisis that we are witnessing now is an event that's happening NOW, what's it gotta do with what the Germans did in the past?

    Does it mean that, what the Germans did during WW2 gives the Greeks the right to cheat, lie and to falsify their accounts to get into EU? And does it mean that the German taxpayers of today have to feed the Greeks? Wake up, learn to have a sense of responsibility and work like anyone else!

    May 9, 2010 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. Gor

    I love seeing so much bigotry and stereotyping towards an entire nation in here.

    Because we know how well THAT ends.

    May 9, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Luke

    Respect to Greek people that they had the cojones to stand up to the international banking mafia, corrupt government officials, and fight for their rights. This is not Geece's fight, this is a global economic war I hope they succeed, and default on their debt. Other European countries are in a similar situation, and should unite in this struggle and stand by Greece and join in rather then point fingers at each other.

    May 16, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |