SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The World

February 23, 2011

Greek strike disrupts flights, cripples services

ATHENS, Greece — A general strike halted public transportation across Greece on Wednesday and led to the cancellation of more than 100 flights at Athens International Airport, as unions stepped up opposition to the country's austerity measures.

More than 30,000 protesters chanting "Don't obey the rich — Fight back!" marched to parliament as the city center was heavily policed. A brass band, tractors and cyclists joined one of two main rallies, by a Communist-backed union.

State hospital doctors, ambulance drivers, pharmacists, lawyers and tax collectors also joined school teachers, journalists and thousands of small businesses in the 24-hour strike as more middle-class groups took part in the protest than have in the past. Athens' main shopping district was mostly empty, as many small business owners shuttered their stores.

This year's first major labor protest in Greece began as Prime Minister George Papandreou's Socialist government faces international pressure to make more lasting cuts after the nation's debt-crippled economy was rescued from bankruptcy by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The government urged protest organizers to prevent potentially violent groups from blending in with peaceful protesters — a common problem for Greek police at large rallies.

"Those who organize rallies must also police them. Everyone has the right to express their views in protest but it must be peaceful ... It will be a crucial day," Public Order Minister Christos Papoutsis said.

The strike halted trains, ferries and most public transport across the country, and idled many airlines at the international airport.

"For us workers, even though the legislation (for austerity measures) has passed, they are not a part of our lives. We have not accepted them," striking postal worker Dimitris Katsantonis said while standing outside a closed central Athens post office.

Unions are angry at ongoing austerity measures put in place by the Socialist government in exchange for a €110 billion ($150 billion) bailout loan package from European countries and the IMF.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
The World

AP Video
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Today in History for July 22nd Raw: Black Boxes of Downed Jetliner Turned Over UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike Raw: Gaza City Shelling Attack Today in History for July 21st Recording May Show Attempt at Crash Cover-up Deadliest Day Yet of Israel-Gaza Fighting Ukraine Rebels: Black Boxes Will Be Returned Today in History for July 20th Raw: Crews Begin Moving Bodies at Jet Crash Site Officials Fear MH17 Site Now Tampered by Rebels Raw: Israeli Defense Forces Strike Gaza Tunnel Raw: Aftermath of Israeli Airstrike on Gaza
NDN Video
Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Rory McIlroy struggles, surges, wins British Open NOW TRENDING: Real life Pac-Man Explosions as hot air balloon crashes in Clinton DUI Driver Dragged to Safety by Officer After Walking Onto Busy Freeway Celebrities That We'd Like to Send to the Moon Spectacular lightning storm hits London Malaysian Flight Victim Was South Florida Grad Rory McIlroy on pace to break British Open records Officials Fear MH17 Site Now Tampered by Rebels Lowes employees repair Vietnam vet's wheelchair Widow of Staten Island man who died after NYPD takedown says he was unjustifiably targeted