Thousands of protestors gathered in Greece to demand justice and answers for the railway disaster on February 28, which plunged the country into mourning.
The official death toll currently stands at 57, with at least 85 injured. Now, protestors have taken to the streets in Athens and other major cities in Greece demanding to know “why?”
“Text me when you arrive”, is one of the main slogans written on banners that can be seen in every part of the country – a reference to a text message found on one of the victims’ phones.
A “voice for the dead”
“For the children in Tempi … for their families … and for us ..” chanted protestors organized by the Athens Student Coordinating Committee.
Many of the protestors feel that the government and railway authorities were to blame for the accident, citing inadequate funding and safety measures.
“This crime will not be covered up. We will become the voice of all the dead,” student protestors chanted.
Some signs and banners also referred to the accident as a “crime”. Another sign spotted in the capital read “Their policies cost human lives.”
Young protestors have been active across Greece. Not far from the hospital in Larissa, where the dead and injured from the accident were taken, several thousand schoolchildren gathered to demonstrate in a central square, chanting “You never arrived, we will avenge you!”
Similarly, hundreds of young demonstrators assembled in Karditsa, where they marched from the central square to the train station on Friday morning.
Protestors clash with police
Although the protests across Greece were mostly peaceful, violent incidents did take place on Sunday when some demonstrators clashed with police in Athens during a rally of an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people.
Altercations between riot police and protestors reportedly occurred at Syntagma square when demonstrators broke away from the main rally and threw projectiles like rocks and flares at the police. Petrol bombs were also thrown, with ensuing fires shown in pictures and videos.
The police used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse protestors.
Where will the blame fall?
With the period of official mourning now at an end, public discourse is now turning to what – or who – should be blamed for the disaster.
A 59-year-old station master who was responsible for the railway network when the fatal train collision occurred was arrested on Sunday. The train master has argued that he was improperly left to manage the network on his own
However, growing scrutiny and criticism have also been leveled at the government, with the Greek rail unions, in particular, criticizing the failure to implement a planned remote surveillance and signaling system.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis apologized for the disaster on Sunday.
“We cannot, we do not want and should not hide behind human error,” Mitsotakis said. “If the digital control system had been completed, it would be virtually impossible for this accident to have happened. The fact that it will be fully operating in the coming months is no excuse. The opposite.”
“It makes my pain even bigger that we didn’t get it done before the tragedy happened,” the Greek prime minister continued.
With elections set to take place later this year, the tragedy could become a crucial political issue when Greeks go to the ballot box.