More than 100,000 protesters grounded Greece to a halt on Wednesday in demonstrations across the beleaguered country voicing their unhappiness with proposed austerity measures that will keep the nation from bankruptcy. Police were gearing up for another clash on Thursday as protesters pledged to continue their strike, Reuters reports.
There is also turmoil in parliament, where lawmakers are debating the measures in an austerity package. The bill comes after a mandate from the European Union, which has told Greece that it needs to curtail its spending or risk losing support from the governing body. Among the most unpopular provisions in the bill are a 20 percent cut in pay for public workers.
Most Greeks are outraged at the proposal, which they feel places a heavy tax burden on poorest citizens while the tax evaders that got the country in trouble are unlikely to be the hardest hit. The strikes have hit almost all of the countries as ministries and schools are shut down while hospitals are operating on minimal staff. Experts don't believe the protests and strike will stop anytime soon.
"People sent a message on Wednesday that they have reached their limits and can't take any more austerity," Theodore Couloumbis of the ELIAMEP think-tank told the news agency.
The riots and debates in parliament come ahead of a Sunday meeting in Brussels between Prime Minister George Papandreou and other European leaders to determine if the austerity measures put in place by Greece were enough for it to continue to receive loans from the rest of the union. Despite strong opposition to the latest bill, many members of parliament believe they had little choice but to vote for it.
"This is not a game. If anybody thinks they can test how much wiggle-room we've have, they're mistaken," Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told legislators, according to ABC News.