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New Democracy Plan to Restrict Protests Draws Protests

Αssociated Press

A rally by university student associations on Thursday morning. (Photo by Eurokinissi)

ATHENS - Citing disruptions to Greece’s capital and jammed traffic, the New Democracy government said it would put tighter controls on public demonstrations often used by anarchists to incite violence, but the idea has drawn protests from critics who said they will take to the streets to show it can’t be done.

The country has a long tradition of public protests, and several recent rallies have been held in support of the Black Lives Matter marches in the United States and there were thousands of protests, many violent, during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis.

Under draft legislation submitted to Parliament, participation in a protest rally held without police permission could be punishable by up to a year in prison and organizers could be responsible for damage to public or private property. 

The government argued that the changes will protect the right to protest and stop small gatherings from causing extensive disruption to traffic as even small gatherings see groups walking down the middle of main streets, now narrower for traffic as the city has instituted the Grand Walk with pedestrian paths and bicycle lanes limiting space for vehicles.

Left-wing opposition parties, led by the former ruling and now major opposition Radical Left SYRIZA said the plan reminded of a right-wing dictatorship in Greece between 1967 and 1974.

A labor union backed by the Greek Communist Party said it planned to organize mass rallies against the proposals under review.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)