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Our View: Violent Dherynia protest sets a dangerous precedent

Video screen grab from the demonstration last Sunday

Sunday night’s protest in Dherynia by some 250 hooded youths, who stormed past the Greek Cypriot checkpoint armed with sticks, bats and flares, is not something that should be ignored, especially at a time like this when tension is high and there is a danger of the situation veering out of control. During the protest, Turkish Cypriots, who live on the other side of the dividing line, had seen the Greek Cypriot youths head into the buffer zone on videos posted on social media, gathered on their side of the Dherynia checkpoint and chanted their own nationalist slogans.

There were no clashes, but what would have happened if two or three hot-headed, masked youths chose to cause trouble, either by throwing stones at people on the other side or trying to get through the Turkish Cypriot checkpoint? The situation could have escalated in no time if the nationalists of the two sides came into direct contact. Not all the Greek Cypriot youths, said to be supporters of a Famagusta football club, went through the checkpoint but they fired flares setting the surrounding fields ablaze.

There were only two policemen guarding the crossing so it was impossible for them to control the crowd. This was because nobody knew about the youths’ planned protest. Reinforcements had to be called in to bring the situation under control. Τwo arrests were made on Monday evening, while there were warrants for another two men, police said.

The question is why no arrests were made on Sunday night when the police reinforcements arrived in the area? This was not a peaceful protest. The participants committed several offences such as vandalism, starting fires and breaking through police barriers into a prohibited area. Do police have instruction not to arrest rioters until the next day?

At least arrests were made, and the suspects are due to appear in court today, showing other potential protesters that the authorities will not tolerate rioting and vandalism.

Only two political parties condemned the rioting, but President Anastasiades made clear his disapproval of what happened, issuing a written statement in which he condemned the unacceptable episodes in Dherynia and called for “calm and self-restraint”.

The silence of the big majority of the political parties, probably terrified of taking a stand against people protesting against the opening of the fenced area of Varosha, could be interpreted as condoning the vandalism, something grossly irresponsible. Society should be united against such acts, which serve no useful purpose, and the political parties would do well to follow the example set by the president in condemning the episodes.






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