DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Police have used pepper spray and batons to disperse dozens of activists trying to march through the streets of Bangladesh's capital as part of a nationwide general strike to protest a government fuel price hike.

The six-hour strike Wednesday was called by political parties including the Communist Party of Bangladesh. It disrupted businesses and closed schools.

At the beginning of the year, the government announced a 9 percent hike in fuel prices, the fifth increase since 2009.

Authorities said the hike was needed to cut the cost of subsidies, estimated at more than $300 million a year.

But critics and opposition parties say the hike will further increase inflation now running at 9 percent.