Greek police deployed tear gas and clashed with demonstrators in the Nea Smyrni suburb of Athens after several thousand people took to the streets on Tuesday, angered by footage of the recent brutal arrest of a local man.
Up to 6,000 showed up for the march against police brutality on Tuesday, according to local media estimates. The protest started peacefully, with elderly citizens and children among the participants.
Another day, another protest in #Athens -this time in the area of Nea Smyrni. The savage beating of a citizen by police on Sunday, has sparked real anger & has mobilised people across the political spectrum bringing the govt under fire#PoliceBrutalitypic.twitter.com/MKw6WT3n6R
— Nina Reizi (@ninarei) March 9, 2021
But tensions spiked after dark, when groups of hooded youths were seen separating from the crowd and clashing with riot police.
They hurled petrol bombs and stones at the officers, who responded with batons and tear gas.
The clashes ended with at least one officer being wounded, and videos from the scene showed a uniformed man on the ground with blood around him.
Some reports said that he was hit in the neck with a flare or a stone, while others claimed that the policeman was torn from his bike and beaten by a group of demonstrators.
Residents from the usually calm neighborhood of Nea Smyrni were protesting in response to a video of a local man being arrested over the weekend. The clip, which went viral, showed the officers harshly beating him with batons, seemingly without any provocation. The police had been called in over reports of violations of Covid-19 restrictions.
The leader of the Syriza main opposition party and former PM, Alexis Tsipras, criticized the government in the wake of the arrest footage, insisting that Citizens’ Protection Minister and the chief of police should resign over “a crescendo of police violence and arbitrariness under the pretext of observing the safety protocols”. He also called on people to take to streets to show their discontent with the situation.
His calls for protests amid the pandemic were in turn blasted by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as “the height of irresponsibility” and “an insult” to the medical workers fighting the pandemic.
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