Thousands of Greeks marched at an annual trade fair in Thessaloniki yesterday to protest against a new round of wage and pension cuts demanded by international lenders in exchange for aid.
The demonstration was led by about 15,000 trade unionists and leftwingers united against the nearly €12 billion (£9.6bn) austerity package being prepared by PM Antonis Samaras to appease EU and International Monetary Fund inspectors.
A Troika team arrived on Friday to review Greece's adherence to the cuts, sackings and privatisation programme.
Pensioners, police, coastguards, civil servant and firefighters all turned out in force to voice their anger.
Some protesters burned European Union flags while others threw watermelons and peaches to show their support for struggling farmers.
In a break with tradition, Mr Samaras made only a brief appearance to inaugurate the event and defend the planned cuts, instead of making the customary annual economic policy speech delivered by his predecessors.
"We are trying to minimise the pain from the cuts as much as possible but we have to make the cuts, because there is no other way," Mr Samaras insisted to politicians and local officials.
Opposition Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras mocked Mr Samaras for his unusually low-key appearance at the event.
"The prime minister came and left like a thief - perhaps he is ashamed," said Mr Tsipras, who took part in the rallies.
Mr Samaras opposed Greece's first bailout in 2010 but, since taking power in June, has promised to push through another round of cuts that an increasingly angry Greek public feels it cannot take anymore.
Prime Minister Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras have won praise from European counterparts for refusing to oppose the cuts but face growing hostility at home as Greece's economic slump deepens.
The government, which is hoping to win two more years to implement cuts slated for 2013 and 2014, admits that Greece's economy will contract by more than 7 per cent this year.
A string of protests are expected in coming days as EU, IMF and European Central Bank inspectors conclude a review that will determine whether Greece gets the next tranche of aid.
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