Tens of thousands join May 1 protests in crisis-hit Greece


More than 18,000 people took to the streets of cities around debt-stricken Greece on Tuesday to join traditional May 1 labour protests, which this year come five days before a general election.
The May Day protests are usually marked by a general strike in Greece, which for the past two years has been forced to adopt severe austerity measures to obtain EU-IMF bailouts and avoid bankruptcy.
The main private workers GSEE union and the public employees’ Adedy union had called for rallies to be held in the capital Athens and in the second largest city, Thessaloniki. Police said some 7,000 people turned up in the northern city of Thessaloniki, while in Athens, about 1,500 people answered the unions’ call, with another 2,000 supporters of leftist groups rallying in the centre of the capital. “No one alone, all together we will succeed,” proclaimed the unions’ banner at the rally site. The protesters marched toward the parliament, escorted by police before dispersing peacefully. A 24-year-old sociology student, Aquelos Nestoras, said he was “a bit disappointed that there weren’t more people at the demonstration.”
“I think that people are afraid to come out in the streets because of the rise of the far-right,” he added, referring to a small neo-Nazi party Chryssi Avghi, which polls show has between 4 and 5 percent support in the upcoming elections which would give it seats in parliament
for the first time. “Punish the parties of austerity and the neo-Nazis”, read another banner of the small radical leftist party Syriza with about 10 percent in opinion polls, double its support in 2009.
The biggest reported rally drew more than 8,000 supporters of a workers’ movement close to the Communist party in Aspropyrgos, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Athens, site of a steel plant of the Hellenic Halyvourgia group, where workers have been on strike for several months to protest against salary cuts.