Dozens of people were arrested in Greece after a protest against vaccine mandates for health workers spiraled into violence. Police deployed tear gas and water cannon in a bid to force the crowd to scatter.
Tensions were running high outside the Greek parliament on Sunday as some 7,500 protesters flooded the central Syntagma Square, waving Greek flags, chanting slogans, and demanding that the plan to make vaccinations mandatory for all health professionals from September 1 be reversed.
First night in Athens. Dinner on the balcony with a view — of both the Parthenon and a wild demonstration. This is my first experience with tear gas. I can confirm it burns bad. pic.twitter.com/2Wn0l5Iwsj
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) August 29, 2021
Ξανά, ξανά και ξανά. Το ζήτημα έχει σταματήσει να είναι επιστημονικό. Είναι πολιτικό. Όποιος πιστεύει ότι καθάρισε με ένα πιστοποιητικό εμβολιασμού ας το ξανασκεφτεί, γιατί θα είναι ο επόμενος που θα βιώσει τις συνέπειες της τεχνοεκφυλιστικής δυστοπίας που ετοιμάζεται.#Σύνταγμαpic.twitter.com/6mEUxNn9ls
— Εθνοσυντηρητικός (@ethnosynt) August 29, 2021
Footage shared on social media showed protesters burning flares and throwing bottles at officers, who responded with tear gas and water cannon.
ΣΥΝΤΑΓΜΑ ΠΡΙΝ ΛΙΓΟ 29.8.2021Ένας σωστός “φιλήσυχος” αντιεμβολιαστής κουβαλά την ελληνική σημαία στον ώμο,ΤΗΝ ΠΡΟΣΒΑΛΕΙ. Τον σταυρό στο ένα χέρι, τον ΒΕΒΗΛΩΝΕΙ. Και ενα καπνογόνο,πυρσό ή μολότοφ στο άλλο χέρι. Που να του ΚΟΠΕΙ απ΄τη ρίζα. pic.twitter.com/BdXfjhrIlR
— Nikos Michael (@NikosMichael6) August 29, 2021
Eyewitnesses claimed that police also used stun grenades in an effort to disperse the gathering.
I was at an anti-vax protest here in Athens a few hours ago. They threw tear gas and stun grenades at us. Seriously ???? all the shit that goes and how we have to fight against the government for our freedoms pic.twitter.com/YDKLZYfrZG
— bristolblues (@BristolBlues32) August 29, 2021
Some of the protesters brought Orthodox Christian paraphernalia, such as crosses and icons, to the rally. Images shared online show a protester kneeling in front of a truck-mounted water cannon, using an icon of Jesus and Mary as a shield.
In another photo, three officers in full riot gear could be seen approaching the protester.
According to AFP, the demonstrators carried placards reading “We are not against vaccines, but against fascism.” An ambulance driver told the agency that he was flabbergasted by the decision of his hospital to put him on sick leave because he declined a Covid-19 vaccine shot, noting that as a frontline worker he had fought “for months” against the virus.
“It’s amazing that I’m put on sick leave because I refuse to be vaccinated when for months I have helped to contain the epidemic, I have worked in very difficult conditions,” he said.
A total of 47 people have been detained in the wake of the protest, police said in a statement on Sunday evening, reported by the Greek media. Police claimed the demonstrators “threw Molotov cocktails, flares, bottles and other objects at the police forces at the scene,” prompting the officers to deter the protesters with water cannon and the “limited use of tear gas.”
Greeks have been taking to the streets to protest against Covid-19 restrictions and vaccination mandates for weeks in a row. Sunday’s rally took place ahead of the September 1 deadline, after which vaccinations will become obligatory for all health professionals both in the private and public sectors. Those who refuse to be vaccinated and fail to produce a certificate showing they have recently recovered from Covid-19 can be suspended indefinitely. Until now, the policy has been in effect only for care home workers, who have been obliged to get a Covid-19 shot since August 16. The restrictions have sparked a massive backlash from unionized health workers.
The largest industry union, Panhellenic Federation of Employees in Public Hospitals (POEDIN) said earlier this month that it was against mandatory vaccinations, but not against the vaccination per se, urging the government to set up special committees to “talk face to face with employees and convince them to vaccinate.”
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