NEWS

Culture Ministry protesters scale Acropolis entry

Culture Ministry contract workers seeking permanent status yesterday ratcheted up their protests, climbing on top of the marble gateway to the Acropolis site and unfurling a large black banner that read: «No to layoffs.» The protesters, who had climbed on top of the Propylaia in the morning, came down in the early afternoon after the ministry dispatched a prosecutor to the site. Another group of workers staged a small demonstration at the foot of the Acropolis but did not prevent tourists from visiting the ancient landmark as they had done two weeks ago, prompting the intervention of riot police officers. In a statement, the ministry condemned the workers for showing «a total lack of respect for history and for the symbolism of the monument» and for putting the Propylaia at risk by mounting it. The statement added that authorities were in the process of paying protesting employees who are owed up to two years in wages but that those with contracts due to expire could not be rehired. Responding yesterday to widespread accusations of showing contempt toward Greece’s most treasured monument, the head of the contract workers’ union, Nikos Hasomeris, defended his colleagues’ actions. «The marbles on their own are nothing. It is people that showcase them. Without them, this monument cannot operate,» he said, adding that the workers would continue their protests against the scheduled expiry of their contracts this week. The employees, who launched their action two weeks ago, originally had protested the government’s failure to make good on promises to pay outstanding wages. Now that the wage issue is being settled, the focus of their protests has shifted to demands for permanent status. Yesterday’s protest drew particular attention and criticism, because it was staged on the actual monument, not merely at its entrance, and on a national holiday in celebration of Greece’s independence. Film director Yannis Smaragdis expressed outrage at the workers’ protest tactics, saying that the protesters were undermining their own cause by «desecrating» the Acropolis. «Whatever the workers are claiming, they are demanding it of the Culture Ministry, not from the Acropolis,» Smaragdis told Skai. «Let them go outside the ministry and protest, not blacken the marbles of light.»