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Police group warns of anarchy, no support: we’re on our own (Update 2)

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Photo: CNA

A police officers’ association called Isotita (Equality) on Sunday warned it would have to take action before officers or firefighters were killed in the light of a series of violent events on Saturday night.

During patrols islandwide to stamp out illegal bonfires, two officers just got out of their patrol car on time before the vehicle was engulfed in flames when someone threw a Molotov cocktail into the car.

“The hope that after yesterday’s Pancyprian incidents police officers and firefighters on duty will spend Easter with their families today,” the group said.

“At the same time we feel that we have no choice but to take unprecedented measures as an organisation because we do not want to see dead police officers and firefighters.”

The group did not specify what those actions might be. It did call on all security forces to realise ” we are on our own”.

“No one seems to have heeded our warnings,” the statement said. “Some people do not seem to have the knowledge, but neither the will nor the conscience to take on their responsibilities,” it said, adding that violence against the security forces was increasing and was being fuelled by “anger and hatred’.

“Whenever the police imposed order with similar violence some people rushed to appoint criminal investigators to attribute responsibilities, and now we are experiencing absolute anarchy.” it added.

The group called on the police and political leadership to listen to front-line officers.

“Everyone should take on their responsibilities before the time comes when their hands will be red with the blood of members of the security forces,” it concluded.

One firefighter, Giorgos Charalambous, posted a message online, according to Sigmalive begging people to stop before someone was killed.

“What is happening in the past few days and nights  by some young people, spreading fires all over free Cyprus invoking the holidays, is really unbelievable. Those who are living this understand how dangerous it is. You try to do your job and you are rained with stones and firecrackers, risking losing an eye or even your life. My friends this is not funny, we also have families waiting for us at home. In the name of God, stop before there is a great evil and someone loses his life. Happy Easter to all!”

Police, at least, are coming under increasing pressure not only to deal with crime but also to enforce lockdown diktats ordered by the state, which includes policing anti-lockdown protests, mask mandates and curfews, which do not endear them to the public.

During a recent protest in Nicosia, police were slammed for using excessive force, including a water cannon on peaceful protesters. Several people were injured during the incident following the heavy-handed tactics.

Police issued an official announcement later on Sunday saying they had dealt with more than 700 incidents of harassment, firecrackers and other related offences during Holy Week.

“In the last three days, more than 2,000 firecrackers were confiscated, while from the beginning of the year until today, more than 52,000, and around 7,000 fireworks were confiscated,” the announcement said.

In the context of combating the phenomenon of juvenile delinquency during the Easter period, a total of 22 people were arrested, police said. The arrests mainly concerned young people, and 19 of those arrested were between the ages of 15 and 22.

Due to the Covid decrees police, in cooperation with municipal and community authorities, carried out inspections to locate wood, old tyres, furniture and other objects slated for illegal bonfires.

“Serious incidents of attacks on police performing their duties, were recorded,” the announcement said.

“On several occasions, our members were attacked by people throwing fire crackers and Molotov cocktails, causing one police vehicle to be completely destroyed and extensive damage to another,” it added.

“The leadership of the police recognises the enormous importance of the mission of its members and the difficulties and the dangers they face every day and stands by them,” it concluded.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis tweeted that the tolerance and understanding shown by police to the public when it comes to Covid measures “should not be interpreted as weakness”.

“We will do whatever it takes to deal effectively with the pandemic and all other asymmetric challenges before us,” she added.

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