Three dead in Greek protest

Anti-austerity march turns violent

Three dead in Greek protest

 Street ire: A petrol bomb expodes near riot police during a rally in Athens on Wednesday. AP“We have found three dead people in the building that is on fire,” the fire brigade said in a statement.

Protesters clashing with police set the commercial building on fire as tens of thousands of Greeks marched to parliament, testing the government’s resolve in enacting deep budget cuts in return for billions of euros in EU/IMF aid.

In the worst violence since the Socialist government came to power in October, hundreds of striking demonstrators pelted police with rocks, chunks of marble and bottles, set garbage cans on fire and tried repeatedly to storm parliament, shortly before lawmakers began a debate on the belt-tightening measures.

The violent protesters were repelled by police in full riot gear hurling repeated rounds of tear gas and flash bombs, and smoke wafted through blocks of central Athens.

Masked youths threw petrol bombs, broke shop windows and shouted “Murderers” and “Burn the parliament,” in a sign of swelling public anger at the government’s plans for painful wage and pension cutbacks.

A giant plume of dark grey smoke rose over the central Stadiou Avenue where the two-storey commercial building, which houses a branch of the Marfin bank, was burning. Officials said two other buildings in the centre of the capital had been set on fire during the protest.

Biggest protest

Police estimated the march at about 27,000 people. But eyewitnesses said there were at least 40,000 — easily the biggest protest since Greece was first hit by a debt crisis late last year.

Public and private sector workers are staging their third joint strike this year. They have grounded flights, shut shops and brought public transport to a standstill.

“These measures are horrible,” said Maria Tzivara, a 54-year-old saleswoman. “I’m afraid I’ll get fired or my salary will be cut. It will be very tough.”

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