Protests Against Masks, COVID-19 Health Restrictions Turns Violent on Cyprus

Αssociated Press

An elderly man wearing a face mask reads a newspaper at a coffee shop at Ledra street a main shopping street in the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

LIMASSOSL, Cyprus -- Anti-mask groups who don't want to wear the required protection against COVID-19 threw rocks at police during a demonstration in Limassol on Cyprus, protesters also upset over corruption and 5G technology. 

Nearly 1,000 people gathered in anger against the government's latest round of health measures that had worked to hold down the number of cases and deaths, people now showing signs of fatigue with all the restrictions.

A group of 100 broke away, said Kathimerini Cyprus and threw flares and fireworkers, set trash cans on fire and became raucous as organizers pleaded with them to be peaceful but failed. 

“They (the government) are trying to scare us but now we are doing it to ourselves,” said one who was not identified, while also calling on families with children to move away.

That was before anti-mask protesters marched toward the seafront and confronted police officers who set up there and were beset upon by people in hoods who threw rocks and other objects at them, the paper said.

 A Molotov Cocktail was thrown as a police car, setting it on fire, forcing the officers inside to scramble to get out in fear for their lives while other patrols cars and private vehicles were also damaged in the melee.

Police said fire fighters trying to put out the trash can fires were stopped by a burning vehicle in their way and them also became targets of the protesters, one firefighter said to be seriously injured.

Seven suspects, aged between 15-22, were arrested by police who chased protesters through the old town's narrow streets and police spokesman Christos Andreou said the youngest suspect also had marijuna on him.

Andreou said officials were especially concerned over how young the demonstrators were and at the violence and damage to property as the organizers said it was intended to be peaceful.

Reports said multiple chants were heard during the demonstration, including “Burn down the Parliament brothel” and “put all House representatives in jail,” in apparent reference to a burgeoning scandal in which two leading politicians were accused of trying to facilitate the sale of Golden Visa residency permits and passports to someone who told them he was a criminal on the run from China.

Another sign also criticized police over arresting youths for graffiti recently "instead of going after those responsible for piling up the country's debt,” the report added, while others said they didn't want 5G mobile phone antennas on the island.