Αthens: Shipyard Workers Storm National Defense Ministry (videos)

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“They broke a flower pot, ” says the reporter of private Skai TV and the magazine presenter Popi Tsapanidou comments “What are you talking about? … they broke a flower pot! … they entered the national defence ministry!”. Unprecedented scenes are taking place right before our eyes on live link as workers at Skaramangas shipyards scrolled up with bare hands  the security roll-blinders of the National Defence Ministry and entered the yard seeking to meet the minister.

 Video: protesters open their way to Defence ministry

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As some dozens protesters were reaching the main entrance of the ministry, a single policeman was trying to convince them to step back. A second policeman came to his aid after a while. The miliraty police had apparently no order to proceed against civilians.

Some tear gas was fired to clam down the angry workers.

A riot police squad arrived on the spot almost twenty minutes later.

The workers are still inside the yard of the ministry.

Video: clashes between riot police & protesters in DefMin yard

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Tear gas was fired, water cannons hurled water and one person was injured by the police when protesters clashed with riot police. Two more workers were taken to hospital due to respiratory problems from the tear gas and one protester has been detained.

450 workers gathered on Thursday morning outside the National Defence Ministry in Athens to protest that they have not been paid for more than 6 months and about the rotating work of one day per week.

With the political leadership of the ministry absent, the Chief of General Staff, Gen. Michalis Kostarakos, he himself personally left his office and went down, grabbed a megaphone and started to talk to angry protesters.

Video: Kostarakos speaks to angry protesters

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Protesters told the media, that “they have been cheated by the political leadership with several promises that never come true and thus on a daily basis” and that they demand their money.

What do private company workers want from the Defence Ministry?

The management of Skaramangas Shipyards wants two submarine-contracts from the Navy in order to keep the shipyard open and give work to workers. (Skai TV)

 According to information of KTG, Skaramangas Shipyards has already built the two submarines however the project has not been concluded yet. The company has not received payments for the project that has a total cost of 1 billion euro. The Finance Ministry seems to have ‘frozen’ the project. Due to lack of money? Because the Troika wants cuts in the defence? There are several rumors about the whole issue…

With the project frozen, the workers are up in arms and the submarines are getting rotten in the shipyard…

As of 11:24  a.m. Kostarakos tells the protesters to leave the ministry premises, deputy defence minister Elefsiniotis (ex Navy chief) is due to meet a workers’ delegation.

11:44 am

More protesters have been detained – tension still high – workers’ delegation has not met with deputy Defence Minister yet.

11:46 a.m.

Background info:

Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos is absent as he has to attend the celebrations of “100 Years of Greek Navy”, taking place some 8 km away in Palio Faliro, a suburb of south Athens.

There are questions as to why the police did not secure the Defence Ministry as it was known that the protest was scheduled for 10 am Thursday morning.

12:16 pm

Some 30 protesters are been held in police buses.

No delegation has met with the political leadership of the ministry yet.

 worker gets first aid by other protesters

12:45 pm

All protesters left the Defence Ministry.

About 100 of them were taken with buses to the headquarters of Greek police.

The rest is moving to police HQs to demand the release of their colleagues.

02:03 pm

Clashes between protesters and riot police outside the Headquarters of Greek police.  Greek media report that the protesters attacked a police squad with sticks and threw plastic bottles at police, also threw fireworks at police HQs entrance. Police fired teargas.

Outside the HQs have gathered colleagues of the detained protesters, colleagues from another shipyard, protesitng members of public and private sector unions ADEDY and GSEE. Unconfirmed information claim that also protesting doctors and personnel of state hospitals would join the crowd.

Protesters outside the police demand the release of the detained.

GSEE president said that 60 protesters have been detained.

03:29 pm

Protesters are still outside police headquarters. Chairmen of other unions have joined the crowd.

Meanwhile, there seems to be criticism to the direction of police that apparently ‘miscalculated’ the risks of shipyards workers’ protest and the officer sin charge outside the Defence Ministry did not call for support on time.

According to Greek media, there was an appointment scheduled for 10 am this morning between one debuty Defence Minister and the workers.

I didn’t hear why the appointment did not take place and the situation got out of control.

Video: Earlier outside the police HQs

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 07:15 pm

Protesters remain outside the Police HQs.

Minister of Citizen Protection Nikos Dendias suspended the police officer charged with the security of Defence Ministry. An internal investigation has been launched.

Some Greek media report, that Dendias asked Defence Minister Panagiotopoulos to proceed to some ‘investigation’ as well -apparently to have some officers suspended as well.

The president of the shipyard workers unions – still in detention at police headquarters – told Skai TV per mobile phone, that they had an appointment with deputy Defence Minister this  morning, that they had given the delegation names’ to the soldiers at the gate and were waiting to go through. “We had been waiting for more thna half an hour, I don’t know…. suddenly the crowd started to scroll up the roll-blinders.”

The majority of the 106 detained has been released. 15 will have to appear before the prosecutor and face charges.