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Will strike and riots bring Greek government down?

Five days of protests, and a nationwide strike Wednesday, have shaken the conservative ruling party.

CHARGE: A policeman ran toward protesters in central Athens Wednesday.

Thanassis Stavrakis/AP

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On an Athens street lined with luxury stores, a small pile of flowers has been laid outside a store owned by the mother of the 15-year-old boy killed by a policeman's bullet Dec. 6. Elsewhere on the street, shops are shut and boarded, victims of five days of rioting.

The violent unrest in Greece – the worst since World War II – may have begun with Alexandros Grigoropoulos' death, but it has now widened into tide of anger over government corruption and perceived economic failure. Greece's ruling center-right New Democracy Party is now fighting to bring order to the streets – and for its own political survival. Calls for the government to step down are mounting.

"The ruling party is numb. It was caught by surprise and in no way responded as it ought to," says Thanos Veremis, a professor at the University of Athens. "And the opposition ... politicians are fueling the anger" for their own gain.

On Wednesday, a nationwide strike led by unions brought the country to a standstill and led to further clashes outside Greece's Parliament. The strike was called long before the events of Dec. 6 to protest the government's economic policies and demand better pensions and higher pay. But the unions are benefitting from anger over the boy's death.

"The Greek people are very furious about the things that have happened," says Maria Yaniris, an opera singer who joined the protesters on Wednesday. "Everything started with the death of the 15-year-old boy ... but personally I don't think this was the basic reason."

"As a country, we have big problems," she says. "Young people have to face a life that is full of uncertainties."


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