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Chaos Reigns as Hundred Thousand Greeks Rally Against Austerity

Second day of general strike brought both numbers and violence

Common Dreams staff

100,000 protestors gather in front of the parliament in Athens' Syntagma square on Wednesday. (Photo by John Kolesidis / Reuters)

In the largest rally since last August, nearly 100,000 protestors crowded Athens' central square Wednesday as parliament met to vote on the lastest round of crippling tax hikes, spending cuts and labor reform.

Al Jazeera reports that the protestors stared down parliament guards as they carried banners and chanted, "It's them or us!" and "End this disaster!"

A steady downpour was not enough to deter the violence that erupted as a handful of protestors attempted to enter parliament, prompting riot police to respond with "teargas, stun grenades and, for the first time in an anti-austerity protest, water cannon," Reuters reports. There are no reports of serious injury.

More chaos reigned inside the chambers where, Reuters reported:

The session was briefly interrupted when parliamentary workers went on strike to protest against a clause that would have cut their salaries. In a humiliating about-face, the government was forced to cancel the measure to allow the session to resume.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is expecting a narrow victory for the $17.3 billion austerity package, meant to secure the next round of aid from Eurozone creditors of the Troika.

"These measures are killing us little by little and lawmakers in there don't give a damn," protestor Maria Aliferopoulou, a 52-year-old mother of two living on 1,000 euros a month, told Reuters.

Wednesday's action was the culmination of a two-day general strike of hospital doctors, taxi drivers, transportation workers and journalists in protest against the vote. The protest effectively halted public transport and shut schools, banks and government offices, causing garbage to pile up on streets.

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