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: 16 Killed in Gaza Market Strike Raw: Guinea Rap Concert Stampede Kills 33+ Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Graphic Video: 15 Killed at Gaza UN School Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Floodwaters Ravage Villages in Romania Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Today in History for July 30th Raw: Aftermath, Artillery Shells Hit Donetsk Muslims Celebrate Eid El-Fitr Around the World Gaza Official: at Least 100 Killed Tuesday Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre Raw: Earthquake Rocks Mexico's Gulf Coast
NDN Video
Heartwarming 'Batkid Begins' Documentary is Tear-Jerker Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show'