The scenes of violence and vandalism by the thugs who stormed the Dias group building on Sunday night will have shocked anyone who saw them on television or social media. This was not the behaviour of over-excited demonstrators hurling the odd missile and chanting abuse, as had been the case outside the presidential palace a little earlier. The people at the Dias building were an angry mob, hell-bent on intimidating the media group’s workers and causing maximum damage to property.
It remains unclear why the Dias building was chosen for this wanton violence, given that, like all media groups, it supports the vaccination drive of the authorities and takes a disapproving stance of those who refuse to have the jab. Then again, this was the second attack by Covid measure protestors on the Dias premises in a few months, although Sunday’s was much more vicious with six officers injured and caused much greater damage to property.
Predictably, the police command came under criticism for not taking the necessary precautions and for not having adequate men at the scene to deal with the hooligans on the rampage and restore law and order sooner. Claims the police had known large numbers of protestors planned to attack Sigma TV were rejected by the police chief, though he admitted that more officers should have been present.
The problem for the police is the society’s ambiguous stance towards the use of force to restore law and order. Most of the time they are unjustifiably accused by media and politicians of using ‘excessive force’ – as if it is possible to stop violent football hooligans by polite requests – while complaints are filed against officers by the troublemakers. After the public outcry against the heavy-handed police tactics at a peaceful Covid measure demo in Nicosia some months ago – criticism was justified in that case – police appear reluctant to impose law and order through the use of some force.
This time, ironically, everyone condemned the actions of the protestors – unions, employers’ groups, media companies, NGOs, political parties – and criticised police for not using adequate force to quell the violence. The fact is the police have a duty to use a reasonable level to restore law and order when dealing with a violent mob like the one at the Dias building.
Hopefully, this need has now become clear to everyone because there could be more violent incidents in the not-too-distant future. There is an astonishing degree of fanaticism regarding the government’s vaccination policy as was evident on Sunday night. That people felt so strongly they were prepared to resort to violence and law-breaking to express their anti-vaccination beliefs was disturbing to say the least.