In the centre of Athens youths broke up marble paving slabs and hurled them at police on Wednesday. The response was tear gas as riot police chased the protesters.
The demonstrations were part of the 24-hour strike organised by the Greek Communist Party labour movement in protest at the government’s austerity measures.
About 1,000 police were deployed in the centre of the capital. They say several people were detained and two injured.
The protesters converged on the square outside parliament where lawmakers were debating holding a referendum on the response to the economic crisis. Others tried to storm one of the Finance Ministry buildings.
The police were on the offensive and stormed into the subway in pursuit of one group until metro workers intervened.
The outbreak of violence in the capital was not as severe as in the demonstrations last June when more than 100 were injured in running battles.
This strike was evidence once again, say workers of their determination not to acquiesce to government cuts.
“Since the country implemented the austerity package, civil servants have lost part of their wages. This is an opportunity for the Greek people, whether in public or in the private sector, to fight this, to deny this logic that we must bow our heads all the time to save the country. We believe, as workers, that patriotism is to respond with actions,” said protester Dimitris Kizilis.
It is reckoned 16,000 public sector workers were involved in the demonstration. The walk out grounded flights, closed schools and government offices while hospitals ran on emergency staff.
Another general strike is planned for two weeks time when it is believed private sector workers will join in.