THESSALONIKI – Eleven Greek anti-vaxxers who dragged a high school principal to a police station in a self-declared “arrest” because he was imposing required COVID-19 health measures will go before a prosecutor Dec. 13, facing a raft of charges.
The principal, who was not identified, was roughed up before being taken to the police precinct where the suspects were themselves promptly arrested, expressing surprise after calling themselves Guardians of the Constitution.
None were identified either in keeping with privacy laws that generally don’t allow naming suspects, only those convicted, although that’s often ignored in cases involving celebrities, politicians or high-profile figures.
They were charged with abduction, gang participation, disrupting a public service and violating measures designed to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, Greece having a hard-core resistance movement against vaccines.
As soon as they arrived at the police station, the attackers were themselves detained and sent to the police’s security division of Katerini, while the school principal was released.
Minister of Civil Protection Takis Theodorikakos condemned the attack and said that, “Such behavior is provocative and unacceptable and police should not allow it to be repeated,” the minister said in a statement.
The incident occurred near the city of Katerini, 430 kilometers (270 miles) north of Athens, near Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki that is a hotbed of defiance against vaccinations and COVID health restrictions.
The suspects allegedly grabbed and handcuffed the 61-year-old principal ahead of a daily COVID-19 entry check of students, forced him into a vehicle and drove him to a nearby precinct where they asked police to charge him.
Education Minister Niki Kerameus in a social media post called the attack “inconceivable,” adding: “We will protect our educational community by all means necessary.” The suspects include two women.
“The (suspects), acting together, forcibly immobilized the school principal as he approached the school complex, handcuffed him and forced him to enter a vehicle in order to take him to a police station, on the pretext that he was violating constitutional provisions,” a police statement said.
Greece is battling a spike in infections and a near-record level of deaths as roughly one quarter of the adult population remains unvaccinated.
The government has vowed to keep schools and businesses open but has intensified pressure on the unvaccinated and recently announced a vaccination mandate for people aged over 60.
Vigilante groups have recently appeared in the northern city of Thessaloniki and nearby towns, one calling themselves The Custodians and wearing black uniforms, arguing that the restrictions are illegal and should be opposed by those defending the country’s constitution.
One group recently damaged a private COVID-19 test clinic in Thessaloniki, claiming that testing was illegal. Four people were arrested and charged with impersonating authority as well.
The government renewed a vow to crack down on the groups, along with gangs that sell counterfeit vaccination certificates as the government hasn’t mandated shots for anyone except health workers and those over 60 too.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)