Greek riot squads clash with protesters marching through Athens

Baton-wielding Greek riot squads clash with protesters marching through Athens in anger at the new hardline government’s raids on migrant squats

  • Officers armed with riot shields and batons were deployed to the capital’s Exarchia district for the protest 
  • One photograph shows an officer grabbing a chunk of a woman’s hair and pushing her head to the ground
  • Some 5,000 Greeks marched in protest at Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ crackdown on the squatters

Greek protesters were forced to flee from heavy-handed police in Athens today during a demonstration against the new hardline government’s raids on migrant squats. 

Officers armed with riot shields and batons were deployed to the capital’s Exarchia district to squash the public display of anger – resulting in violent clashes with the activists.

One dramatic photograph from the rally shows an officer grabbing a chunk of a woman’s hair and forcibly shoving her face towards the ground. 

Another shows someone sprinting away from the anti-riot squad, who bear down upon him while more protesters are chased out of a smoke-filled ally.

A policeman wearing a breathing mask and clutching a gas canister suggests that tear gas was fired at protesters – the weapon of choice of the Hong Kong police – although this is unconfirmed.  

Some 5,000 so-called anti-establishment Greeks marched through the streets of Athens after new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis ordered a crackdown on illegal squatters. 

In August, at the height of the tourist season when many of the capital’s residents leave town, police evacuated four squats and removed 143 migrants, prompting an outcry by locals. 

Greek protesters were forced to flee from heavy-handed police in Athens today during a demonstration against the new hardline government’s raids on migrant squats

One dramatic photograph from the rally shows an officer grabbing a chunk of a woman’s hair and forcibly shoving her face towards the ground. A policeman wearing a breathing mask and clutching a gas canister suggests that tear gas was fired at protesters – the weapon of choice of the Hong Kong police – although this is unconfirmed

Some 5,000 so-called anti-establishment Greeks marched through the streets of Athens after new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis ordered a crackdown on illegal squatters

The head of government and leader of the right-leaning New Democracy party has blamed the migrant squatters for turning the Exarchia suburb into a ‘den of lawlessness’ which is ridden with drug smuggling. 

His crackdown was condemned by the Greek human rights league who branded the move a ‘rather pointless show of force’ and ‘contrary to the respect of human dignity.

And the outpouring of fury from Athenians grew when a police union labelled the squatters ‘trash’.

Tensions between locals and the government boiled over during today’s protest which saw police forcibly manhandle demonstrators. 

Activists marched behind a large banner that read ‘No Pasaran, no surrender, no truce’ while others waved placards calling for ‘mass resistance to state repression.’ 

Anti-government campaigners also claim that the evictions are part of a wider gentrification effort in an area that is full of hidden architectural gems. 

The Prime Minister, who campaigned on a ticket of jobs creation and public safety, earlier this month called the central Athens district a ‘den of lawlessness.’

A picture from the rally shows someone sprinting away from the anti-riot squad, who bear down upon him while more protesters are chased out of a smoke-filled ally

In August, at the height of the tourist season when many of the capital’s residents leave town, police evacuated four squats and removed 143 migrants, prompting an outcry by locals

Tensions between locals and the government boiled over during today’s protest which saw police forcibly manhandle demonstrators

He said: ‘We want to turn Exarchia into what it once was: a neighbourhood with its own particular character instead of a den of lawlessness, vandalism and drug trade. 

The new Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis – who is the PM’s nephew – was similarly elected on a law and order ticket and has promised an ‘imminent’ initiative ‘to improve daily life’.

On the campaign stump in June, he said: ‘Organised crime is having a party in the area.

Bakoyannis argues that order must be restored before sidelined landmarks such as the National Archaeological Museum and the Athens Polytechnic – in the middle of drug-trading areas – can become tourist draws.

But to longterm locals such as Dimitra Konidari, the district’s identity as ‘a place of solidarity and diversity’ is under threat.

She fears that authorities will seek to stifle ‘socio-political groups in the area, anarchist or otherwise’ that have been instrumental in creating solidarity initiatives for migrants and poor Greeks during the crisis.

Activists marched behind a large banner that read ‘No Pasaran, no surrender, no truce’ while others waved placards calling for ‘mass resistance to state repression’

Officers armed with riot shields and batons were deployed to the capital’s Exarchia district to squash the public display of anger – resulting in violent clashes with the activists

The head of government and leader of the right-leaning New Democracy party has blamed the migrant squatters for turning the Exarchia suburb into a ‘den of lawlessness’ which is ridden with drug smuggling, although this is rejected by locals

And the outpouring of fury from Athenians grew when a police union labelled the squatters ‘trash’

Thodoris Kokkinakis, a member of a local citizens’ committee, said: ‘We’re in favour of the police being present to combat crime and delinquency but against all kinds of repression.

Under the previous government, a deputy police minister had labelled Exarchia the ‘Montmartre’ of Athens in reference to the historic Parisian district, an artist’s haven in the early 20th century.

Nikos Vatopoulos, an urban architecture writer for Kathimerini daily, points out that the district offers neoclassical buildings as well as samples of early 20th century avant-garde middle class homes.

Dimitris Dimopoulos, who opened a bookstore here in the late 1970s, recalls that Exarchia was then ‘full of writers and artists.’

Democracy had only just been reestablished after a brutal seven-year dictatorship, brought down in 1974 months after a student uprising at the nearby Athens Polytechnic.

Even though university faculties were moved to the suburbs of the capital in the 1980’s, the area continued to attract youths espousing left-wing, far-left and anarchist views. 

Protesters take part in a rally against squat evictions over Exarchia district in central Athens, Greece this afternoon

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