Nightly News   |  October 19, 2011

Thousands in Greece protest austerity measures

Demonstrators protesting a round of measures designed to balance Greece's budget took to the streets on Wednesday. CNBC's Michelle Caruso Cabrera reports from Athens.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Overseas now, we turn to Greece , where this was a day of rage in that country over what's happening to that country and to everyday citizens who say they're being forced to shoulder the burden of a downward spiraling economy . More than 100,000 people took to the streets today in Athens in a nationwide strike that has virtually shut the country down. Michelle Caruso-Cabrera is there for CNBC tonight . Michelle , good evening.

MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA reporting: Good evening, Brian . And they took to the streets one day ahead of a crucial vote that this government has to pass on austerity measures in order to get an 8 billion euro loan from the European partners to keep this economy on life support. Still, those affected by these new austerity measures are angry, and they showed it today. Athens looked like a war zone. Protesters by the thousands throwing stones and fire bombs at police. Police responding with tear gas and muscle. At times it was hand-to-hand combat. A homemade bomb meant for police hit a protester instead. Greece is having the equivalent of a nervous breakdown. The country is at a standstill, on strike and out of money after years of living beyond its means. With angry crowds outside, parliament is racing to balance the budget, facing

an ultimatum from Europe: Get your house in order or go under. Prime Minister George Papandreou pleaded for support, understanding and responsibility. The proposed austerity measures , spending cuts, tax hikes, layoffs and suspension of collective bargaining are painful and deeply unpopular.

Unidentified Woman: This is really bad. This is really difficult for a young person to not have dreams.

Unidentified Man: There is no future here.

CARUSO-CABRERA: Greece owes half a trillion dollars to lenders and they can't pay it. A default could cripple the economy of Europe and beyond. In fact, tonight the leader of France flew to Germany to meet with the head of that country to see if they can come up with some European-wide solution to the financial crisis here. The European economy , collectively, is actually bigger than the United States , and if it suffers a banking crisis it could hurt an already weak US economy . Brian , back to you.

WILLIAMS: Of course, another day of this tomorrow. Michelle , thanks, as always. Michelle Caruso-Cabrera in Athens .