Extensive rioting, violence in southern Athens district in wake of protest against police brutality

Tuesday, 09 March 2021 22:39
UPD:22:53
Eurokinissi/ΚΟΝΤΑΡΙΝΗΣ ΓΙΩΡΓΟΣ
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A large protest demonstration against police brutality in a southern Athens district turned ugly on Tuesday evening, with dozens of firebombs thrown at riot police, with the latter responding with tear gas and a water canon vehicle.

One motorcycle police officer was seriously injured after a group of up to 60 masked rioters pull him off the motorbike and started kicking and hitting him. Some protesters, mostly all clad in black and wearing face masks, also attempted to besiege the police precinct in the district.

In total, 10 people were arrested at various points of the protest.

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The protest by an estimated 10,000 took place in the more upscale district of Nea Smyrmi, two days after video footage emerged of a police officer using his baton to hit a young man attempt to avoid arrest. Four police officers on Sunday afternoon in the same Nea Smyrmi square reportedly came under attack after checking for pandemic-related violations on outdoor movement.

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The street violence was usually intense even by urban Athens' standards, but utterly unique for the specific area of the Greek capital. As in the past, such protests have attracted small to larger groups of self-styled anarchists, anti-state gangs and far-left activists, with many of latter engaging in vandalism to street violence.

All of Greece's parliament-represented parties condemned the violence and the attack on the police officer.

On Sunday, the incident in the square generated a heated "tit-for-tat" round of statements between the ruling center-right government and SYRIZA, the leftist main opposition party.

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis himself took to television, in a videotaped message, on Tuesday evening to condemn the rioting, while calling for self-restraint and calm.  

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"I'd like to especially address our young people, who are destined to create. Don't destroy; blind rage leads nowhere."

At the same time, in a direct jab at the main opposition, Mitsotakis said "...some, unfortunately, ignored our warnings... attempting to sow hatred and division in our society, in order to conceal their own impasse, just as they did in the past...I will not allow anyone to divide us; we won't let anyone return us to the past."  

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