Limassol’s seafront thundered to the sounds of over 500 people chanting “hands off migrants” on Saturday evening, in a peaceful demonstration showing solidarity to foreign nationals who have been subject to a slew of heightened racist attacks across the country this week.

Holding placards reading ‘Will trade Elamites for refugees’ and ‘Stand against fascism’ the participants began marching at 7pm from the coastal city’s GSO stadium to Molos and back. The slogan for the event was ‘against fascist pogroms’.

Participants chanted anti-fascist slogans in both English and Greek, including a particularly popular: “Say it loud say it clear, immigrants are welcome here.” The statements were met with multiple rounds of applause from attendees.

“I’m so happy that so many people came here today. These are the real people of Limassol,” one participant told the Cyprus Mail.

People of all nationalities joined the demonstration, including Cypriots, Middle Eastern individuals – who have borne the brunt of a lot of racist attacks this week – and people of various European nationalities.

“I’ve been in Cyprus for 15 years, I never saw such a thing like yesterday,” said one Syrian man. He was referring to the violent onslaught that hit the city, where thugs hit out at foreign nationals and their businesses, in an attempt to drive home the message that “migrants are not welcome here.”

He added he was incredibly comforted to see the hundreds of people on the street in solidarity, saying he had initially been afraid this was yet another racist protest.whatsapp image 2023 09 02 at 22.53.26

Nonetheless, Saturday’s demonstration far outstripped the previous day’s protest in numbers with more than double the participants. The event was also entirely peaceful without any incidents of violence, though slogans equating Nazis and police officers and calling for their deportation sparked heated responses from riot officers at the scene who began to exhibit aggressive behaviour and threatened arrests if the chants against them were to continue.

At one particular point, Efi Xanthou of the Green party was trying to defuse the situation as members of the police force looked like they were ready to attack the demonstrators. She called on them repeatedly to take steps back.

Participants yelled out “where was this zeal yesterday, when you let them destroy the city and puts kids in danger?”

Many policemen threatened to walk out “and leave them at their mercy” if the contentious slogans continued. “They need to learn to respect” officers added as their senior tried to appease the crowd.

Police had pledged to ensure peace amid fears of a counter-protest and after an abysmal failure on Friday as mobs ran riot in the city centre and officers all but watched on. During Saturday’s event, police did everything it had been supposed to do the previous day – block off roads to cut off traffic and man the demonstration from each side in its entirety.

Six people were arrested before Saturday’s event even began after they were reportedly found with dangerous weapons.

Once the demonstration which lasted for about an-hour-and-a-half was wrapped, a group of around 30 participants went to Limassol CID to wait for the release of the six individuals.

#During Friday’s protest when small groups broke off from the march to attack migrant passersby, officers were absent from the scene as they had all grouped at the end of where the march was supposed to end.

Foreign nationals and their businesses were singled out and attacked. Police arrested 13 people over the incidents but the force was heavily criticised over their failure to control the situation.

President Nikos Christodoulides also denounced the violent episodes, saying he felt shame over the attacks and indicated that those responsible should feel shame as well.

A week ago, residents in Chlorakas, Paphos, held an anti-immigrant protest that became violent, where foreign nationals were attacked for two nights in a row.

Images by Andria Kades