Police fired tear gas Wednesday at rioters hurling gasoline bombs and chunks of marble during Greece’s largest anti-austerity demonstration in six months. The protests were part of a 24-hour general strike, the latest test for Greece’s nearly four-month-old coalition government and the new spending cuts it plans to push through.
The brief but intense clashes by several hundred rioters among the 60,000 people protesting in Athens came a day after anti-austerity protests rocked the Spanish capital.
In Madrid, thousands of angry protesters again swarmed as close as they could get Wednesday night to Parliament, watched by a heavy contingent of riot police. There was no fresh violence, but the demonstrators cut off traffic on one of the city’s major thoroughfares at the height of the evening commute.
The protesters chanted for the release of 34 people detained Tuesday night in clashes that injured 64 others. They also demanded new elections to oust Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his conservative government, which has imposed cutbacks and tax hikes, deepening the gloom in a country struggling with recession and unemployment of nearly 25 percent, the highest among the 17 nations using the common euro currency.
Spain’s central bank warned Wednesday the country’s economy continues to shrink “significantly,” sending the Spanish stock index tumbling and its borrowing costs rising.
Across Europe, stock markets fell as well. Germany’s DAX dropped 2 percent while the CAC-40 in France fell 2.4 percent and Britain’s FTSE 100 slid 1.4 percent. The euro was also hit, down a further 0.3 percent at $1.2840.
The turmoil Wednesday ended weeks of relative calm and optimism among investors that Europe and eurozone might have turned a corner.