Greece is once again being engulfed in working-class militancy as thousands walked off their jobs Wednesday and marched through central Athens in protest of continued austerity measures demanded by international lenders.
The strike was called by the country's main public and private sector unions a day before Greece's Parliament is due to vote on austerity reforms that would open up access to funds from the 86-billion-euro bailout, the country's third in seven years.
Thousands of demonstrators led by the public transport sector, teachers, medics, public servants, and air-traffic controllers brought the country to a virtual halt. A spokesperson for the public servants union clarified that medical personnel only attended to cases of emergency during the strike.
According to police estimates, some 12,000 people protested in front of the Greek Parliament alone. Police fired tear gas at a group of protesters hurling petrol bombs and firecrackers at them. A small group of demonstrators were seen firing projectiles at police with what appeared to be improvised devices. Others held hammers.
According to Ekathimerini, buses and trains didn't circulate Wednesday and dozens of flights were delayed or canceled. The Greek islands remained isolated from the mainland due to ferry and boat workers striking.
Some of the demonstrators expressed anger at the coalition government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose center-left Syriza party came to power in 2015 promising to stop the cuts.
"They told us they would end austerity and tear apart the bailouts," said Paraskevi Tsouparopoulou. "Instead they brought us disaster."
"We have been fooled. We believed in (Syriza's) promises," said Nikos Moustakas, a retired mechanic who worked for 38 years. "They have lost me as a voter," he said.
The new austerity measures include pension and salary cuts starting in 2019 as well as tax increases, energy reforms, and the authorization of mass layoffs. Currently, unemployment is running at close to one in four people and 48 percent among the youth.
Demonstrators have dubbed the proposals as being the fourth memorandum because they are additional, unexpected modifications to the third rescue package. The new measures will be imposed as soon as the current austerity plan ends.
The most severe aspect, according to unions and opposition parties, is that this time, Greece is obliged to fulfill the agreement without receiving anything in return.