Greek Riot Police Evict Fired Staff From Building of Shuttered Public Broadcaster

Greek Protests outside Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation earlier this year

Laid-off workers had been occupying the headquarters of defunct state broadcaster ERT since the government abruptly closed the network in June amid austerity measures.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — In a pre-dawn swoop Thursday, Greek riot police ended a nearly 5-month protest by sacked workers broadcasting from what was once the headquarters of the defunct state broadcaster, removing a few dozen people occupying the complex.

Police said four people were briefly detained during the operation in the northern Athens suburb of Agia Paraskevi. About 50 people were removed from the building.

STORY: Greek Crisis: New Government Backed Channel Goes On Air

No violence was reported, although police later used tear gas to push back a crowd of about 200 who turned up outside the complex to support the former ERT workers.

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the evacuation was aimed to "restore the rule of law."

The complex had been occupied by the protesting ex-employees since June 11, when Greece's conservative-led government abruptly closed ERT and fired all 2,700 staff, citing the need to cut costs due to the country's severe financial crisis. They continued to produce unauthorized broadcasts online, including airing news reports and documentaries.

These ended Thursday, although regional former ERT branches were still broadcasting their own unauthorized programs.

"The broadcasting complex had been illegally occupied, and that resulted in daily financial losses for the Greek state," Kedikoglou said. "The (police) intervention was carried out in the presence of a prosecutor."

The government opened a replacement state broadcaster, EDT, based in a small former ERT building in another part of Athens.

The former workers had turned down repeated government calls to leave the ERT headquarters so that full-scale state broadcasts can resume from the complex.

The main opposition Syriza radical left coalition protested Thursday's "illegal" police operation, with several Syriza lawmakers joining protesters outside the building.

"The government ... has created a black page in the history of state television and democracy in our country," a party statement said.