Video: Violent riots in Greece following an anti-government protest over the country’s worst rail tragedy

The Greek police dispersed this Wednesday with tear gas to protesters who had launched incendiary bombs during a protest of tens of thousands of people outraged by the worst railway tragedy in the country: at least 57 people died and 14 remain hospitalized after a passenger train collided head-on with a freight convoy on February 28.

The largest demonstration took place in Athens, with about 40,000 participantson which were seen banners proclaiming: “It’s not an accident, it’s a crime.”

Outside Parliament, dozens of hooded men threw Molotov cocktails and stones at riot police who responded with salvoes of tear gas.

In Thessaloniki – the country’s second city – police clashed with protesters outside the railway station.

The police reported that more than 65,000 protesters took to the streets across the country.

Public service employees are also in strike for 24 hoursas well as primary school teachers, doctors and bus and metro drivers, and those responsible for maritime links with the country’s many islands.

“This government has to go”

At the demonstration in the capital of Greece, many banners called for the resignation of the government of the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“I am here to express my tribute to the deceased but also my outrage and my frustration,” he told the news agency. AFP in Athens Niki Siouta, a 54-year-old civil engineer. “This government has to go,” he said.

Other protesters carried the slogan “Call me when you arrive”, in reference to the message sent by a mother to her son who died in the accident.

Many Greeks also express their resentment towards what they see as the decline of public services since the austerity plans imposed by Greece’s creditors to bail out the country.

Protesters gathered this Wednesday near the city of Larissa, in Thessaloniki, Greece, to protest against the government for the train crash on February 28 (REUTERS / Murad Sezer) (MURAD SEZER /)

The last straw

Greece faces a wave of outrage not seen since the 2008-2018 financial crisis with demonstrations that become increasingly violent.

For Spyridoula Togia, a 30-year-old teacher, this railway tragedy is “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Many of the victims were young people and students.. In recent days, images of broken parents burying their children, often broadcast live on television, have further shocked the country.

The Lárisa station manager, who acknowledged his responsibility in the accident, is in pretrial detention.

The two trains traveled several kilometers along the same track, without anyone noticing, until they collided head-on on the night of February 28 near Larissa, 350 km north of Athens.

Destroyed train carriages at the crash site near the city of Larissa, Greece (REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis)
Destroyed train carriages at the crash site near the city of Larissa, Greece (REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis) (ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS/)

After this “national tragedy”, as the authorities described it, the Greeks demanded accountability from their leaders, starting with the prime minister.

The head of government, who is facing general elections in the spring, was harshly criticized for having assured hours after the catastrophe that it was a “tragic human error”.

The railway unions recalled angrily that they had warned about the serious technical failures in that line long before the drama and that they were not heard.

The prime minister apologized to the families of the victims on Sunday, too late for many. Also asked the European Union for help which is to send experts from the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) to Athens this week.

Anger is also directed at the Hellenic Train railway company, owned by Italy’s state railways, whose Athens headquarters was smeared in a protest on Friday with the word “murderers”.

This company, which manages passenger and freight traffic, responded to the accusations by pointing out that the responsibility for network maintenance fell on the Greek public company OSE.

(By Marina Rafenberg and Yannick Pasquet – AFP)

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