Riot police clashed with Athens’ demonstrators during a general strike that took place nationwide in protest of the new austerity measures the government is being pressured to approve by creditors.

In Athens, violence erupted as protests against the new measures escalated on Wednesday in Greece. Tear gas was fired at crowds that threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. The clash between protesters and police disrupted the peaceful march of over 200,000 people through the country’s capital city. This marked the first large confrontation between the people and the coalition government that has been in office just three months.

The general strike, hailed by unions as a triumph, nearly brought the entire country to a standstill. The action grounded flights, shut down public transportation, closed public services and hurt tourist trade.

The coalition government is under intense pressure to approve even more cuts by its international group of creditors trying to keep the economy afloat in Greece. Bulletproof barriers were constructed around the entire parliament building even though many had hoped today’s protests would remain peaceful.

Smoke could be seen in different parts of the capital while protesters wore gas masks as it became clear the hope that no violence would occur was lost. Over 3,000 police officers, nearly twice the amount that are usually deployed were standing guard in the central part of Athens, as more rioting was expected.

On Thursday, the conservative led coalition government of Antonis Samara is expected to vote on the budget cuts that could eliminate $15.3 billion or over 5% of the country’s entire GDP. The contents of the cuts are not known by the people, but once they are, huge protests are expected.

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