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Clashes break out in Greece after march against police violence

demonstration against a police crackdown on gatherings in athens
A police officer stands over an injured companion during a demonstration against a police crackdown on gatherings, in Athens, Greece

A Greek police officer was seriously injured on Tuesday after clashes broke out during a demonstration in an Athens suburb against police violence, prompted by a video that appeared to show a man being beaten on Sunday by officers in the area.

More than 5,000 people marched through the densely populated residential area of Nea Smyrni. Some banners read “Cops out of our neighbourhoods”.

Police later fired tear gas to disperse groups of masked protesters who broke away from the march and hurled petrol bombs, rocks and other objects at them, setting garbage containers alight.

During the clashes, a Reuters photographer saw a group of protesters attacking one officer, leaving him lying on the ground, with his head bloodied.

As the clashes continued through the evening, at least three police were hurt and 10 arrests were made, police said.

Many protests turn violent in Greece, which is emerging from a decade-long financial and social crisis and has been criticised by human rights groups for the actions of law enforcers.

The incident shown in the amateur video was condemned by opposition parties. Authorities are investigating the use of force by police, who said they had been called out to check if lockdown rules were being respected.

An ombudsman looking into the case said this week that complaints of police brutality had been on the increase, as frustration grows with the restrictions on movement and economic activity necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a brief televised statement, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the violence seen on Tuesday must end.

Referring to the injured policeman, he called for restraint: “I am addressing young people, who are destined to create and not to destroy. Blind rage does not lead anywhere.”

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