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Violence Flares At Protests In Greece

Earlier today (June 28, 2011) in Athens, a demonstrator threw a tear gas grenade back toward police. AP hide caption

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AP

Earlier today (June 28, 2011) in Athens, a demonstrator threw a tear gas grenade back toward police.

AP

"The overwhelming smell is one of tear gas," the BBC's Jon Sopel reports from Athens, where a 48-hour general strike has begun as workers and protesters express their anger over new austerity measures that parliament will vote on Wednesday and Thursday.

As The Guardian reports, "more than 5,000 police [had] been deployed to guard central Athens where anti-austerity demonstrations earlier this month ended in scenes of violence as protesters clashed with riot officers."

And as expected, the Guardian now adds that:

"Television pictures show small fires in Athens and rounds of teargas being fired in response by the authorities. Missiles are being thrown at the police and some people are trying to break windows. Some of those involved in the clashes have crash helmets on, some have bandanas over their faces.

"The BBC's Jon Sopel estimates that hundreds are involved in the clashes."

(Note at 9:15 a.m. ET: NPR staff on the scene estimate that the number of demonstrators was much lower than Jon Sopel's earlier report about "hundreds of thousands." And the BBC is now saying that "thousands of protesters have gathered.")

According to The Associated Press, "riot police fired tear gas at youths hurling rocks near the Greek finance ministry."

As the wire service adds, "the latest austerity measures must pass in two parliamentary votes Wednesday and Thursday if Greece is to receive bailout funds from the EU and the IMF that will keep it from becoming the first eurozone nation to default on its debts. The clashes with police came at the start of a two-day general strike called by unions furious that the government's new $40 billion austerity program will slap taxes on minimum wage earners and other struggling Greeks. The measures come on top of other spending cuts and tax hikes that have sent the Greek unemployment rate soaring to over 16 percent."

There's a live feed of the scene from Athens streaming here.