REPORTING FROM ATHENS -- Violence gripped Greece’s capital anew Thursday as swarms of extremists armed with stones and gasoline bombs clashed with peaceful protesters, leaving a 53-year-old worker dead.
The violence broke out during a massive demonstration that drew at least 50,000 people near Athen’s central square to protest proposed austerity measures lawmakers were due to vote on late in the day.
Passage of the bill, including fresh tax hikes, wage cuts and the termination of 30,000 state jobs, is a precondition for more rescue aid promised by Greece’s European partners and the International Monetary Fund as part of a bailout patched together last year.
The measures have enraged many crisis-fatigued Greeks, setting off strikes and sit-ins at state buildings in increasing acts of defiance.
On Thursday, the protests took a deadly turn when communist activists moved to shield the mostly peaceful demonstrators from bands of black-clad extremists who previously have burst through crowds to launch attacks on police.
Fierce battles ensued between protesters and militant youths, injuring more than 40 people, three of them seriously. The worker who later died was struck with a stone in the head during the clashes. Two other workers tripped over a marble railing, falling on the canopy of a café before crashing on concrete pavement.
European leaders were expected to meet over the weekend to decide on a final plan on how to deal with debt-troubled nations such as Greece.
-- Anthee Carassava
Photo: Protesters stand in smoke from a tear gas grenade thrown by police during rioting in central Athens on Thursday. Credit: Petros Giannakouris / Associated Press