Strikes, protests and clashes after deadly train crash in Greece

Clashes erupted in Athens on Thursday during a general strike in Greece called in response to a rail disaster last month.

Demonstrators threw petrol bombs at a police line near Parliament. Riot police responded with tear gas and sonic grenades during the brief flare-up of violence that disrupted large, peaceful demonstrations. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.

The strike caused flights to be grounded and services disrupted significantly, while large protests also took place in other cities across the country. There were also clashes between young people and the police in the southern port city of Patras.

The strike also halted ferries to the Greek islands, kept public hospitals running with emergency staff, halted public transport and canceled classes in state schools.

Unions have rallied behind railway workers’ unions who have been waging strikes since the head-on collision in northern Greece on February 28 that killed 57 and injured dozens.

“This government has had four years to fix problems with the rail network, but instead of taking on that responsibility, they blame everyone else,” Popi Tsapanidou, a spokeswoman for the main left-wing opposition party Syriza, told private TV channel Skai.


Riot police officers take their positions next to flames of cocktail Molotovs after they threw protesters during a 24-hour general strike in central Athens March 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)


The main protests took place in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, and the capital Athens, where thousands shouted “This crime will not be forgotten” as they reached a police line in front of a private rail operator.

Shops and banks lowered their shutters as protesters marched by as the capital was brought to a standstill. A multitude of unions – from lawyers to delivery drivers – joined the strike.

The government, which faces general elections ahead of the summer, says rail services will resume on March 22 and be gradually restored by April 11, with extra staff to oversee safety and mandatory speed reduction rules along sections of the line.

The centre-right government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has narrowed a strong lead in opinion polls over its main rival Syriza in recent weeks, with the two sides also locked in an ideological debate over reforming Greece’s aging rail network.

Mitsotakis has promised clearer boundaries between privatized services and the authorities overseeing them, and asked for help from European Union experts in drafting the changes. His political opponents argue that the poorly managed dissolution of agencies under state control has ultimately jeopardized railway safety.

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