In Greece, Street Clashes Before Austerity Vote

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WATCH Violence Erupts in the Streets of Athens

After a brief lull this evening that saw protesters peacefully clapping, chanting and banging drums, the violence in Athens is back.

Stun grenades sounded, and a group of police was hit with a Molotov cocktail. The police around parliament were pelted relentlessly with bottles and rocks but showed relative restraint by only responding with grenades and tear gas when the attacks got bad.

Though the day's demonstrations started calmly with protesters from across the spectrum -- male and female, young and old -- Athens' Syntagma Square later filled with young, male hooligans and anarchists who clashed with riot police.

Tens of thousands had originally gathered to demonstrate amid a nationwide strike against Wednesday's vote on new austerity measures that would see $40 billion worth of wage cuts and tax hikes levied against an angry population that says it is suffering enough as it is.

Raised Taxes and Cut Services

In addition to taxes on minimum wage earners, the measures would cut a range of government services. Currently, the Greek unemployment rate is more than 16 percent.

Riot police in gas masks ran back and forth today trying to beat back young men with scarves covering their faces who threw rocks and set garbage on fire.

It was a marked shift from the diverse and peaceful crowd of 20,000 people who gathered earlier in the day, many of them from unions protesting the measures and proposed deeper privatization of state-run companies. In the northern city of Thessaloniki, 7,000 protested without incident.

Everyone from doctors and ambulance drivers to casino workers and actors at a state-funded theater joined the protest.

"The situation that the workers are undergoing is tragic," said Spyros Linardopoulos. "We are near poverty levels."

Today was the second day of debate in Greece's parliament over the austerity and privatization plans, whose passage is necessary to secure a $17 billion tranche of international bailout money. Without it, Greece risks defaulting on its debt, which would send ripples.

Workers across Greece walked off the job for a 48-hour general strike as lawmakers debated the reforms. The strike brought the country to a standstill -- transportation stopped, schools closed and hospitals worked with just emergency staff.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.