On-duty Greek riot police clashed with a small contingent of colleagues on strike Thursday in an event that put an emotional climax to a week of protest in Greece.
The cop-on-cop violence occurred after a contingent of 50 officers, part of the national policeman's union, blocked the entrance to a riot police precinct in northeastern Athens. After attempting to have the striking officers clear the area voluntarily, the tactical police squad -- which is being deployed to the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki in anticipation of massive street protests there this weekend -- eventually forced its way out of its barracks, prompting the skirmish with unionized colleagues.
It was a emotional scene, according to Reuters, with an officer in riot gear declaring that "they make us fight against our own brothers" as officers engaged in shoving matches and fisticuffs nearby.
The fighting came in a week that has seen public sector workers of all stripes strike to protest the slashing of salaries and benefits as part of upcoming fiscal austerity measures.
Athenian police and fire departments -- as well as the national coast guard -- were on strike Thursday, as the government scrambled to show international creditors it had cobbled together nearly 12 billion euros in further austerity cuts ahead of a Friday deadline. A day prior, judges, prosecutors and court clerks, had walked off the job, citing draconian salary cuts of over 50 percent. University professors and public hospital doctors also held labor actions this week and tax collectors have a 24-hour work stoppage scheduled later in the month.
Lest they feel left out, the unemployed -- who according to new information out Thursday officially constitute 24.4 of Greece's able-bodied populace -- will have a go at occupying the streets Saturday, as the county's two largest unions have called for the general public to picket an appearance by the country's prime minister in the city of Thessaloniki.