It's time for your daily Syntagma (not to be confused with Stigmata...yet) square live video feed, where things already are starting to have a far more violent tone compared to the primarily peaceful protests so far this year, courtesy of a substantially larger police presence as over 5,000 cops are expected to join the festivities. The protest marks the first day of the previously reported 48 hour general strike which will culminate with tomorrow's decision on the 5 year mid-term austerity plan.
More details on the strike from Athens News:
The strike is set to disrupt or halt most public services, with doctors, ambulance drivers, journalists and even actors at a state-funded theater joining the protest, which is to continue Wednesday.
Flights will be grounded both days during stoppages by air traffic controllers between 8:00 a.m. and midday and between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. (0500-0900 GMT and 1500-1900 GMT).
The Greek union position on the proposed austerity is not precisely surprising:
Unions are angry at a new €28 billion austerity programme that would slap taxes on minimum wage earners and other struggling Greeks, following months of other cuts that have seen unemployment surge to more than 16 percent.
The package and implementation law must be passed in parliamentary votes this week so the European Union and the International Monetary Fund release the next installment of Greece's €110 bn bailout loan. Without it, Greece faces the prospect next month of becoming the first eurozone country to default on its debts - a potentially disastrous event that could drag down European banks and affect other financially troubled European countries.
"These measures are a massacre for workers' rights. It will truly be hell for the working man. The strike must bring everything to a standstill," said Thanassis Pafilis, a lawmaker with the Greek Communist Party that will lead one of Tuesday's main rallies.
What was surprising was the fact that Greece is now openly leaving the door open for another renegotiation, something the EU will certainly not enjoy:
"I call on Europe, for its part, to give Greece the time and the terms it needs to really pay off its debt, without strangling growth, and without strangling its citizens," he said.
Papandreou's new finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, said the government acknowledged the new cuts were "unfair." He said Greece wants to conclude negotiations for a second bailout by the end of the summer "at the latest," and he urged opposition parties to abandon their opposition to the austerity programme.
"These measures will take us from running budget deficits to achieving primary surpluses. It's a difficult but necessary step," Venizelos said.
The Socialists, with traditionally strong ties to the striking unions, have struggled to contain a party revolt against austerity.
Papandreou has a majority of five seats in parliament, but at least one Socialist lawmaker has said he will vote against the government on Wednesday, with another dissenter undecided - prompting dire warnings from senior government officials.
We will bring more as the day develops.