Greek anger over austerity measures took a deadly turn for the worse during anti-government protests.
Three people, one of them a pregnant woman, died of asphyxiation inside a bank in Athens after it was petrol-bombed.
News of their deaths sent shockwaves across the country. The Greek parliament observed a minute’s silence in response.
Prime Minister George Papandreou vowed to bring those responsible to justice but also defended his plans to cut wages and pensions.
Until now, anti-austerity protests have been fairly peaceful, but yesterday’s violence was reminiscent of the riots which broke out in December 2008 after a teenager was killed by police.
Demonstrators tried to storm parliament but were pushed back by riot police before the start of the austerity bill debate.
The march, to mark a 24-hour nationwide strike, was by far the biggest protest since Papandreou took office last October.
The Greek president said the country “is on the edge of the abyss” and warned people not to “take the step into the void.”
But with another nationwide walkout planned for next week, Greece’s social unrest may heighten fears that its financial troubles will spread.