Police in Athens clashed with youths protesting against an incident of police violence that prompted widespread condemnation and putting the police under spotlight.
At least 5,000 people took part in a march on Tuesday in the capital’s Nea Smyrni neighbourhood amid an uproar after a video on social media showed a police officer beating a young man with a baton during a patrol on Sunday to check that people were following coronavirus restrictions.
The clashes broke out after a group of some 200 masked protesters headed towards the police station in Nea Smyrni. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the youths who threw rocks and lit rubbish bins on fire.
Police reportedly said some protesters had been arrested even before the clashes broke out for possession of Molotov cocktails and iron bars.
A viral video showed a young man shouting “I’m in pain” as he was beaten on Sunday at the Nea Smyrni square, a popular spot for family gatherings.
Onlookers can be heard in the footage expressing outrage at the police officer behaving this way in front of their children.
The incident sparked fury among opposition politicians and others who blasted it as an unprovoked act of police violence.
“The country has a government that has totally lost control of the pandemic, and the only thing it knows how to do, according to the plan, is to use a heavy hand,” said former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of the Syriza party.
Police have also opened an internal probe into the officer filmed hitting the man.
Tensions between protesters and Greek police have been mounting in the past months along with the start of the pandemic. Human rights activists have been decrying restrictions and bans placed on protests, as well as the treatment of protesters, journalists, and lawyers at the hands of the police.