Police used tear gas and water cannons on protesters who gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the 17 November 1973 student uprising against the Greek military dictatorship.
The Citizen Protection ministry responded to Communist Party of Greece (KKE) accusations of police violence against protesters for the Polytechnic anniversary by pointing to an order that banned more than four people from public gatherings between 15-18 November. The ministry said in a statement “the uprising of the Polytechnic is one of the strongest symbols of our post-junta democracy. In today’s dramatic pandemic conditions, the government requested that the commemorations be held without a rally, by laying wreaths.”
Both the main opposition Radical Left SYRIZA and Greek Communist KKE had laid wreaths at the former premises of the junta’s military police, at Eleftherias park, “not observing the health protocols and violating the ban.”
In addition, the announcement said, KKE had nearly 200 people gather before the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron Mousikis) metro station, for the purpose of marching to the nearby American embassy. “The police did not allow this. The individuals arrived by using misleading SMSs,” the ministry said, referring to the text-messaging permits to leave the house. “The police explained to the organizers that the rally was illegal and requested it break up. It was assured this would happen shortly, that’s why police did not intervene.”
Later, in downtown Athens, the ministry continued, “KKE collected, entirely unprovoked, nearly 1,500 people at Propylea and tried to hold a march. The police repeatedly asked that they leave,” which the participants refused to do. A prosecutor was informed.
“The incidents have been recorded and will be turned over to the public,” noted the statement, adding that “the rally participants dispersed and reconvened. People were led to police stations [for questioning] and the legal processes are being followed. This day is not a game to overturn the ban. The coronavirus gives us no such leeway, except to those who are irresponsible.”
Protesters from mostly left-wing groups and parties gathered in the capital despite a ban on marches and rallies as a precaution to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The ban prevented large-scale marches held annually on 17 November.
Clashes were reported between police and demonstrators.
Media reports said some protesters gathered in Thessaloniki and were also later dispersed by police.
About 5,000 officers, with support from helicopters and drones, had been deployed in Athens. More than 100 people have been arrested for flouting the government’s regulations.
Parties opposed to the government’s coronavirus-related ban on protests as a result of the soaring of new cases were SYRIZA, KKE and Yanis Varoufakis’ Mera25 Party who said that these restrictions curbed their civil liberties.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said that “Democracy is not a regime of freedom alone, but also of responsibility. Overcoming our individualism for the common good, public health and solidarity is today the struggle of all of us.”
Meanwhile, Greece registered 2,422 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and another 63 deaths.