Police and protesters clashed in Spain and Italy on Wednesday as millions of workers went on strike in organized labour’s biggest Europe-wide challenge to austerity policies since the euro zone debt crisis erupted three years ago.
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Protesters chant slogans during a union protest in Thessaloniki, Greece on Nov. 14, 2012. Workers across the European Union sought to present a united front against rampant unemployment and government spending cuts Wednesday with a string of strikes and demonstrations across the region.
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Protesters carry a banner during a union protest outside Parliament in Athens on Nov. 14, 2012.
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A protester shouts at the police during a general strike in Madrid, Spain. Spain's main trade unions staged a general strike on Wednesday, coinciding with similar work stoppages in Portugal and Greece, to protest government-imposed austerity measures and labour reforms. The strike is the second in Spain this year.
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Riot police stand guard in front of a restaurant as the owner waits for the protesters to leave during a general strike in Madrid, Spain. In Spain, 110 people were arrested – including two allegedly with material to make explosives – after confrontations at picket lines and damage to storefronts. Riot police fired rubber bullets at protesters in central Madrid in one brief clash.
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Demonstrators clash with police in riot gear during a protest against Italian Government austerity measures in Rome on Wednesday. In Rome, scuffles broke out between police in riot gear and demonstrators who threw stones, bottles and fireworks at police. About 60 demonstrators were detained. Protesters occupied Pisa’s mediaeval leaning tower for an hour, hanging a banner reading “Rise up. We are not paying for your crisis”.
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Demonstrators clash with police in riot gear during a protest against Italian government austerity measures in Rome. Protesters clashed with police in various demonstrations in Rome, Milan, Turin, Padua and Brescia.
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Worker holds placards reading ‘We are all Greek, enough austerity,’ during a demonstration against austerity, in Marseille, southern France. In France, five trade unions organized marches in more than 100 cities but did not call for a strike. Left-wing critics of Socialist President François Hollande said he has failed to address the concerns of French workers who have the same fears as their counterparts in southern Europe.
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A protester waves a Greek flag during a union protest outside Parliament in Athens.
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Riot police apprehend a protester during a general strike in Valencia, Spain.
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European trade unions protest outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, schools were shut, factories were at a standstill and trains barely ran in Spain and Portugal on Wednesday where unions held their first joint general strike. Stoppages in Belgium interrupted international rail services.
Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP
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Portuguese bus drivers from public company STCP carry a makeshift bus while protesting at a picket line during a general strike, in Porto, Portugal. In Portugal, which took an EU bailout last year, public and political opposition to austerity is growing, threatening to derail measures sought by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho. Passos Coelho’s policies were held up this week as a model by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is despised in much of southern Europe for taking a hard line on the conditions attached to EU aid.
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Youth demonstrators protest on a march during a general strike against government austerity measures, in Pamplona, northern Spain. Union leaders in Spain said more than 9 million workers joined the strike – the second this year. The government said participation was much lower and played down the impact, saying many services were functioning normally. Stores opened normally in many parts of the country, though some had protesters outside.
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A picketer gestures as he is being identified by policemen during a 24-hour nationwide general strike in Oviedo, in northern Spain.
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A protester covers her head in a plastic bag, meant to show that austerity measures are suffocating Greeks, outside Parliament during a union protest in Athens.
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Protesters manipulate a huge puppet during a union protest outside Parliament in Athens.
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Protesters hold Spanish and Italian flags outside the Greek parliament during a protest in Athens.
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Protesters hold up placards as they fill up Madrid's Colon square during a demonstration at a 24-hour nationwide general strike.
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A demonstrator wears a Guy Fawkes mask as he takes part in a march during a 24-hour nationwide general strike in central Madrid.
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Police stand guard during clashes with protesters at a 24-hour nationwide general strike near the Parliament in Lisbon.
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Protesters fill Madrid's Colon square during a demonstration at a 24-hour nationwide general strike.
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A protester runs in front of a burning barricade during clashes near the Parliament at the 24-hour nationwide general strike in Lisbon.
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Demonstrators take part in a march during a 24-hour nationwide general strike in central Madrid.