Greece Paralyzed by New Anti-Austerity Strike

Clouds of tear gas mingled with smoke in Athens and a former minister was reportedly hurt as police and stone-throwing protesters clashed Wednesday during a demonstration against new austerity measures.

Protesters set garbage bins and cars on fire outside a trio of luxury hotels on central Syntagma Square and threw projectiles at riot police during the union-backed demonstration that attracted some 20,000 participants, according to police.

Some protesters also manhandled a former minister and conservative deputy who was forced to take refuge inside a building, a police spokesman said.

The spokesman insisted that former minister Costis Hatzidakis was unhurt but reports said the 45-year-old lawmaker had been hit on the head after a verbal altercation with protesters.

As the demonstration drew to a close, crowbar-wielding hooded youths hurled chunks of masonry at police on central Panepistimiou Street and tried to block the road with garbage bins.

Red paint was splashed on the nearby entrance of the Bank of Greece and boarded-up shops on central Stadiou Street were covered in black graffiti.

"Let's not live as slaves," read one while another called for a "popular uprising."

The protest was held hours after parliament approved a bill slashing pay in the country's poorly managed public utilities, months after civil servants in the broader public sector had also had their wages and pensions cut.

Another demonstration in the northern city of Thessaloniki was also capped by violence when youths threw firebombs at a central government building and vandalized several banks and stores, local police said.

At least three people were hurt and around 20 were detained by police during the northern city demonstration that drew some 20,000 protesters.

The austerity cuts are mandated by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund after they extended a 110-billion-euro loan in May that rescued Greece from bankruptcy.

Other protests against austerity measures were expected Wednesday in other European capitals.