Thousands gather in Greece in Spanish-style austerity protest

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Thousands of protesters of all ages gathered in Athens and other major Greek cities Wednesday to condemn the government's austerity policies after an online campaign inspired by recent turnouts in Spain.

Over 10,000 people, according to media estimates, assembled in the capital's central Syntagma Square, shouting and shaking their fists at the lawmakers inside the nearby parliament building.

Another 4,000 gathered in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

"Thieves, thieves," the crowd chanted as a small police force looked on.

"What time is it? Time for them to go," read a banner at the front of the Athens demonstration.

Greeks are indignant at a fresh wave of austerity cuts announced this week after painful sacrifices to address a debt crisis last year were partly neutralised by a deep recession that has cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

"We are doing this to show our presence," 33-year-old Thaleia, who is self-employed, told AFP.

"Something has to be done. We need to show our numbers, and someone needs to cover this. To show that there's a lot of people out there protesting, who will not take this lying down," she added.

"I have faced job insecurity for three and a half years," said Dora, a former employee at an advertising firm.

"This cannot go on. People must react. Not violently, but with peaceful protests. They should come and stay here," she said.

Plans for the protest quickly spread by word of mouth after a Facebook posting on Tuesday that rapidly drew several thousand adherents.

It was modeled on a similar mobilisation in Spain this week.

Thousands gathered in Madrid in a protest timed to coincide with Sunday's regional and local elections, which delivered a heavy blow to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's ruling Socialist Party.

The popular protests, slickly organized via Twitter and Facebook, were the largest since Spain's property bubble collapsed in 2008 destroying millions of jobs.

© 2011 AFP

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