Youths have clashed with the Athens police force, pelting officers with stones and petrol bombs during an anti-austerity march. More than 20,000 people have gathered in the Greek capital in a 24-hour strike against wage and pension cuts. Anti-austerity activists faced down police officers, throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks in the center of Athens. Police responded firing teargas into the group of adolescents to disperse them. Millions across Greece are participating in a mass 24-hour strike in a bid to convince politicians to let up on the latest round of crippling austerity measures. Authorities have deployed 4,000 extra police throughout the Greek capital to maintain law and order during the protests. The strike has led to grounded flights, closed hospitals and the mass shut-down of public services throughout the country.
The Greek government is planning to introduce a new round of belt-tightening cuts, focusing on the public sector for 2013-14. They aim to qualify for a new bailout package of around 31 billion euro ($40 billion) to keep the country afloat for the time being. Critics of the 13.8-billion-euro ($17 billion) austerity package have warned that it will cripple struggling businesses that has thus far managed to cope with the financial downturn. "We can't take it anymore. People are suffering," said protester Dimitris to AFP. "We are fighting to prevent the passage of these measures which would bring us to our knees." EU leaders gathered in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the unchecked financial crisis, affecting Europe’s Mediterranean countries. Although no significant breakthroughs are expected to be reached during the two-day summit, the Union’s richer nations will rally to support bailout measures.