Portuguese workers stage austerity protests, marred by violence
In Lisbon, Portugal's largest workers union CGTP led thousands on an all-day march. Upon the protestors' arrival at the parliament building around 5 p.m. local time (1700 GMT), several arrests were made, while five were injured and one was hospitalized.
Protesters were seen removing a police barrier and attempting to storm a stairway leading up to the parliament as they targeted riot police with fire crackers, beer bottles, rubbish bins and stones by some protesters, many of whom were wearing hoods and masks.
Riot police dispersed the crowds firing off at least six rounds in the air and used battons and dogs as protesters retreated into nearby buildings and setting alight plastic rubbish bins, while some members of Parliament were escorted by security guards to their cars.
"Workers will not tolerate a reduction in pensions or salary, the intention of the strike is clear, to stop or at least criticize the austerity and adjustment policies implemented by Passos Coelho who is leading the country directly towards an irreversible disaster," CGTP union leader Armenio Carlos told Xinhua.
He added that "the Troika should see how the country was when they started coming here and see how it is now and that it may reconsider as rising unemployment and lower growth are a reflection of its current policies."
Carlos was referring to data released on Wednesday by the National Statistics Institute (INE) showing a rise in the unemployment rate from 15 percent in the second half of 2012 to 15.8 percent in the third quarter, which means some 870,000 people is currently out of work.
Carlos noted that unemployment is one of the main causes of discontent of the Portuguese people "who today showed a red card to the government which has turned its back on the people and promoted policies which destroy the economy."
The union leader described the protests as the "biggest strike since April 25" referring to Portugal's 1974 Carnation Revolution and claimed that, "hunger has returned to Portugal, where there are 10,000 children who are hungry right now."
A protester identified as Pedro Santos stressed that "this is the first general strike at European level and underlines the importance of social movements and trade unions who work together."
"The Germans, French, Italians and Spanish should find new ways to fight because otherwise they will begin to lose their rights," said the activist.
As Wednesday's strike, which marked the third general strike in the 16 months the conservative government has been in power, brought the Lisbon and Porto metro systems to a halt, the capital's buses, boats, trains, public hospitals, schools were all running reduced services.
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