A massive demonstration of nearly 6,000 people against police brutality resulted in violent clashes between police and protesters in the Athenian neighborhood of Nea Smyrni on Tuesday.
Although the protest began peacefully during the day, with older citizens, families, and children involved in the demonstration, as night fell, agitators broke from the group.
Hooded protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police and journalists present at the demonstration on Tuesday, after the massive crowd violently clashed with members of the Greek riot squad.
In order to disperse the crowd, the Greek riot police have employed flash grenades, tear gas, and high-powered water hoses on the demonstrators.
According to reports, one police officer was injured after multiple rioters tore him from his motorcycle during the clashes and began to beat him in Nea Smyrni on Tuesday.
The protesters took to the streets en masse in response to police violence, after a video showing police officers, seemingly unprovoked, beating a citizen with their batons went viral over the weekend.
Apparently enforcing Greece’s strict anti-virus measures, the police beat the man for breaking social distancing rules, a claim witnesses have denied.
Since the event took place in Nea Smyrni on Sunday, protesters have descended upon that neighborhood to voice their dissent against what they consider to be escalating police violence in the country.
The Greek government has released photographs of Molotov cocktails they claim police have found after searching those present at some of the protests in the area.
Political Response to Video
The video has caused a political firestorm from Syriza, the opposition party, as well as large-scale protests from Greeks who both feel that the police violence has gone unchecked under the current New Democracy government.
Main opposition party leader Alexis Tsipras, of Syriza, called for the resignation of Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis and the head of the police.
“How much longer will you allow this crescendo of police violence and arbitrariness under the pretext of observing the safety protocols that you and your government officials are constantly violating?” he asked in a question addressed to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitstotakis.
He urged him to end what he called the heavy-handed tactics of armed police concerning the observance of social distancing by the public, and called the public to make their disapproval known through protests.
In response, Greek PM Mitsotakis called Tsipras’ support for large demonstrations during a pandemic “the height of irresponsibility.”
“It undermines measures to limit the coronavirus’ dispersion, and it serves as an insult to our health staff struggling day and night in the National Health System, Mitsotakis continued.
The country recorded 3,215 cases of the virus on Tuesday, the third highest number of cases diagnosed in Greece in a 24-hour period since the beginning of the pandemic.
Of Tuesday’s total cases, 431 were located in Attica, the region of the Greek capital city of Athens, alone.