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Riot police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters in central Athens on Wednesday as a general strike called by Greece's main unions in protest at government austerity measures went into effect.
The fighting divided the 10,000 strong march, which was otherwise peaceful, into two. At one stage, choking clouds of chemicals fired by police sent demonstrators and tourists scurrying for cover past shops and banks that had their fronts shuttered in anticipation of trouble. Thousands, many chanting “Finance Minister, leave the planet,” took part in the demonstration called by the two main labor unions. Previous protests have also been marred by violence, and three clerks died last May when their bank was torched by rioters. Earlier, about 10,000 members of the Communist-led PAME union held a separate, peaceful protest, with banners reading “We reject and condemn the new measures. We’re intensifying the fight.” “Every day that passes, (the government) takes back what the working class has won through blood and struggles all these years,” retiree John Pavlidis said.