ATHENS, Greece (CBS) -- Angry protesters chanted 'traitors' in front of the parliament in Athens on Wednesday (September 26) during a mass rally and a general strike called by the country's biggest unions.
Shops were closed, transport disrupted, museums closed, flights suspended and boats docked, hospital services vastly reduced as the unions representing 2.5 million workers went on a general strike calling on the government not to introduce any more cuts in wages and jobs.
Up to 70,000 people joined the protest which soon turned violent when hooded youths hurling petrol bombs and flaming canisters at riot police who steered the protesters away from the front of the parliament.
One policeman was set alight as canisters exploded erratically across the square. They responded with teargas.
There was some panic after police pushed peaceful protesters away from the square whilst running after rioters who streamed down a main road, away from the parliament, throwing stones and sticks at police whilst setting rubbish crates alight. About 120 people were detained.
The paralyzing 24-hour nationwide strike is shaping up to be the first test of whether Prime Minister Antonis Samaras can stand his ground.
Police officials estimated the demonstration was the largest since a May 2011 protest and among the biggest since near-bankrupt Greece first resorted to aid from international lenders in 2010 - which has come at the price of painful austerity cuts.
The traditional summer break has allowed the fragile conservative-led coalition to enjoy relative calm on the streets since narrowly coming to power on a pro-euro, pro-bailout platform, but unions say the lull is over.
Much of the union anger is directed at spending cuts worth nearly $15.55 billion over the next two years that Greece has promised the European Union and International Monetary Fund in an effort to secure its next tranche of aid.
The bulk of those cuts is expected from cutting wages, pensions and welfare benefits, heaping a new wave of misery on Greeks who say repeated rounds of austerity have pushed them to the brink and failed to transform the country for the better.