Calls for calm af­ter rally

Vi­o­lent skir­mish leaves 30-year-old crit­i­cal as four po­lice of­fi­cers sus­pended

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials yes­ter­day ap­pealed for calm af­ter an iso­lated out­break of vi­o­lence dur­ing an other­wise peace­ful anti-aus­ter­ity demon­stra­tion in Athens on Wed­nes­day ended in the se­ri­ous in­jury of a 30-year-old pro­tes­tor and fu­eled a heated de­bate in Par­lia­ment about the un­due use of force by some po­lice of­fi­cers.

“We ex­press great re­gret for the griev­ous in­jury sus­tained by this young man,” gov­ern­ment spokesman Gior­gos Pe­talo­tis said in a state­ment. But, he added, “we must all re­main calm and cool-headed dur­ing this very dif­fi­cult time for our coun­try.”

The 30-year-old was in crit­i­cal con­di­tion at the Nikaia Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal yes­ter­day. Panayi­o­tis Pa­paniko­laou, a sur­geon there, told Skai that it was “a mir­a­cle” that the man was still alive and that his con­di­tion had sta­bi­lized but that the next 48 hours would be cru­cial. He said that dozens of demon­stra­tors had vis­ited hos­pi­tals across the cap­i­tal for treat­ment to in­juries sus­tained dur­ing the rally.

A po­lice state­ment is­sued yes­ter­day said that three of­fi­cers had been sus­pended for al­legedly us­ing ex­ces­sive force against a demon­stra­tor. The three of­fi­cers’ su­per­vi­sor has been sus­pended too, pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the state­ment added. Po­lice press spokesman Thanas­sis Kokkalakis told state tele­vi­sion that a small mi­nor­ity of trou­ble­mak­ers were to blame for the iso­lated vi­o­lence which marred Wed­nes­day’s other­wise peace­ful rally. “Af­ter each demon­stra­tion we see the same thing – or­ga­nized and vi­o­lent gangs ex­ploit­ing those ex­er­cis­ing their right to demon­strate,” he said.

The in­ci­dent fu­eled ten­sion in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day. Panayi­o­tis Lafaza­nis of the Coali­tion of the Rad­i­cal Left (SYRIZA) ac­cused riot po­lice of­fi­cers of “car­ry­ing out vi­cious at­tacks on un­armed demon­stra­tors with the aim of killing them.” Deputy Fi­nance Min­is­ter Filip­pos Sa­chini­dis em­pha­sized the need for “cool-head­ed­ness and self-con­trol.” An­other demon­stra­tor who re­port­edly suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s protest, which at­tracted about 30,000 peo­ple, re­port­edly told state tele­vi­sion chan­nel NET that he had not been at­tacked by po­lice but had slipped and hurt him­self.

A group of pro­test­ers late yes­ter­day oc­cu­pied the cen­tral build­ing of Athens Univer­sity, where the vi­o­lence broke out on Wed­nes­day, and draped a banner out­side read­ing “Mur­der­ers.” There had been no re­ports of trou­ble by late last night.

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