Thousands of people joined a nationwide strike and many more gathered for a second time in as many weeks in the center of Athens to demand justice for the death of 57 people in the train disaster of Feb. 28.
Demonstrators vow that they will not allow a cover-up of the worst rail accident in Greece.
They blame the Greek government for the lack of safety measures in the railway system and call the accident as a crime waiting to happen. “It was not human error, it was crime,” read a banner held by protesters rallying peacefully outside parliament in Athens. “Our dead, your profits,” read another one.
The government, whose term ends in July, has acknowledged deficiencies due to underinvestment and neglect – a legacy of Greece’s decade-long debt crisis – but it has blamed the crash mainly on human error.
As the demonstration at Syntagma square was wrapping up clashes broke out between a section of the crowd and riot police. The crowd threw petrol bombs and the police responded with tear gas.
According to initial reports, the violence began in the lower part of the square and spread to the upper part of Syntagma Square and Panepistimiou Street, where groups of rioters broke shop windows and set fire to garbage bins. Minor clashes were also reported in Omonia Square and Patission Street.
While the situation appeared to have calmed down and police partially reopened roads in the centre of Athens, a new round of violence erupted at the Propylea on Panepistimiou Street just before 15:00.
The rally coincided with a new nationwide strike organized by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), the Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEDY), and the Panhellenic Maritime Federation (PNO).
“The crime at Tempi will not be covered up. We claim the life that we deserve, a life with contemporary rights, a better future for us and our children,” notes the Civil Servants’ Confederation.
“For all the workers in Greece, investigating the affair in depth and assigning blame to those responsible, as well as the implementation of measures to not mourn any other lives, is a central issue for society and is at the epicenter of our strike,” stated the General Confederation of Greek Workers.
Strike over train disaster brings Greece to a halt
Greece’s air traffic controllers announced that they will join the 24-hour strike on Thursday. As a result, many flights are canceled.
Metro lines 1 (ISAP), 2 (red line) and 3 (blue line) and tram-trains will only run from 10:00 until 15:00, to facilitate the transportation of people attending rallies in central Athens.
Buses will hold work stoppages from the start of the shift until 09:00 and from 21:00 until the end of the shift, the OASA staff union announced on Tuesday. They will run normally between 09:00 and 21:00, leaving their depots at 8:30 in the morning.
Trolley buses in Athens will run from 09:00 until 21:00 on Thursday, as announced the ILPAP-OSY Workers Union on Tuesday. The bus routes operated by KTEL intercity coaches will run as normal.
Only 50 buses, operated by skeleton staff, will run in Thessaloniki on Thursday, while the Airport (N1) night line and the special service for the disabled will operate as normal, said the Urban Transport Organisation of Thessaloniki (OASTH).
Panhellenic Federation of Railway Workers will also participate in the strike, they said, although national railway services have been paused since March 1, following the Tempi rail accident.
Public anger in Greece grows
Public anger over the rail accident is growing in Greece.
Last week, hundreds of thousands of protestors gathered across major cities and communities in Greece to call for answers and justice in the wake of the train disaster that has plunged the country into sorrow and anger.