ATHENS (Reuters) - About 4,000 Greek police, coastguards and firemen protested in Athens on Thursday, staging faked suicides on gallows they placed outside the finance ministry and parliament to symbolize the pain of budget cuts.
"The troika is sucking our blood," they shouted, referring to the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, the international creditors bankrolling Greece on condition it cuts public spending and raises taxes.
Athens plans to slash police pay in a new round of cuts worth nearly 12 billion euros ($15.16 billion)over the next two years, a plan likely to provoke new protests in the coming weeks.
The staged hangings were meant as a reminder to politicians that suicide rates have soared in Greece since the austerity measures took hold.
Earlier on Thursday, protesting officers blocked the entrance to the riot police headquarters, preventing buses carrying forces from leaving for the site of major demonstrations planned this weekend.
Scuffles broke out as riot police tried to clear the entrance of several dozen police union members - many in uniform - chanting anti-austerity slogans and holding banners.
"They would not let riot police buses depart for Thessaloniki," a police official said, referring to the northern city hosting a weekend trade fair where anti-austerity demonstrations are planned.
Some riot police appeared reluctant to tackle uniformed officers. "They make us fight against our own brothers," said one riot policeman who declined to be named. ($1 = 0.7915 euros)
(Reporting by John Kolesidis and Renee Maltezou; Writing by Deepa Babington and Harry Papachristou; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)