10 July 2020
There have been demonstrations across Greece against a new law which introduces a requirement to apply for a 'licence to protest'. In Athens, where more than 10,000 people gathered in opposition to the new measures, police reportedly detained 24 people. Violence broke out when a group of protesters threw petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas and flash grenades. Demonstrations have been held outside courts in support of those arrested.
The law was introduced by the conservative New Democracy government and passed yesterday by 187 votes to 101.
According to a report in The New Arab, the law "gives the police the highest authority on matters of protests," and:
"...stipulates that protesters apply to the police for a license to demonstrate. Groups must do so via an assigned organiser who will be financially liable for any damage to property or obstruction of economic life deemed to have been caused by the protest."
The government claims it is upholding the right to protest "in such a way that it does not obstruct the movement and work of citizens and the life of an entire city."
According to euronews:
"Critics of the proposed reforms include the Athens Bar Association and parliament’s own legislative review committee. They argued that plans to prosecute protesters attending unsanctioned rallies and to hold protest organizers responsible for damage caused if rallies turn violent are legally troublesome."
Opposition lawmakers have spoken out strongly against the law. Representatives of Syriza, which held power prior to New Democracy, opposed the measures, as did the Greek Communist Party.
Syriza MP Yiannis Ragousis reportedly said in parliament that people's right to assembly "is not subject to police licensing and precautionary restrictions," and that:
"Not only are you criminalizing free participation in democratic rallies, but you also criminalize something deeper about democracy and its nature: You are criminalizing the free expression of citizens."
Hundreds of people gathered outside courts in Athens in support of those arrested.
The move to restrict protests follows an increase in heavy-handed policing in order to impose the country's coronavirus lockdown, during which "tear gas was reportedly used to disperse gatherings in densely populated areas, including neighbourhoods with large numbers of migrants and refugees such as Kypseli in Athens," reports The New Arab.
The pandemic also provided an opportunity for Greek police to make use of new rules allowing the deployment of drones for law enforcement purposes.
The New Democracy government has also faced opposition to new measures introduced for the registration of NGOs, which have been condemned by groups working with migrants and refugees.
Note: this report was updated at 16:53 on Friday 10 July to include information on demonstrations outside courts in Athens.
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