Firefighters clash with riot police in Athens

Greek firefighter lights a flare during occupation of fire service headquarters.
Greek firefighter lights a flare during occupation of fire service headquarters.

Firemen from all around Greece gather in Athens to demand permanent employment and clash with riot police forces

Submitted by taxikipali on March 29, 2009

Tension rose to new levels in the Greek capital last week when two bodies of public security, the firemen and the riot police clashed in the center of Athens during the former's national campaign to protest against the non-implementation of promises made by the Ministry of Interior. Last year, the ministry promised permanent employment for 5,500 firefighters across the country by April 1st 2009.

In the morning of Thursday 26/3 3.500 firefighters gathered from all around the country in full gear and marched first to the Ministry of Labour holding big placards with photos of firemen who have lost their lives in their effort to put out fires. The central banner read: "You promised us, you burned them, we buried them".

At the same time other firemen were leading an occupation of the Fire Service headquarters of the capital. The building was soon surrounded by riot police forces which refused to let the firemen exit the building, and attacked them with tear gas and clubs.

The tension was diffused without major injuries until 17:00 when the firemen decided to form a protest march to the Ministry of Economics. When the protest marched reached Syntagma square it found the road to the Ministry blockaded by riot police forces which after negotiations allowed a committee to visit the Ministry to negotiate. But the police gesture proved only to be a trick, and the firemen found the Ministry locked. Upon being informed of the bluff, the protest march tried to use a bypass to the Ministry leading the riot police to attack. The response of the firemen to this second round of police violence was furious, and unhindered by tear gas by recourse to their professional masks, they counterattacked with projectiles and fire extinguishers leading to extended battles in the center of the city.

Two protesters were hospitalised and over 1,000 remained in Syntagma square outside the parliament throughout the night in vigil.