ATHENS – Despite masses of people crowding popular shopping streets, stores and malls, Greece's New Democracy government imposed a ban – not on shopping – but on protests in what it said was to slow down COVID-19.
While there's worry among the government's panel of scientists and doctors about the crowds gathering to shop, the attention was focused on protesters who could take to the streets against the plan to slow the pandemic.
The ban on protests – which was called public gatherings – will last at least until Feb. 1 – only six days with no explanation how that would do anything to effect another surge in the Coronavirus if it's limited to demonstrators.
Violators – only protesters – could face fines up to 3,000 euros ($3,638.37) for individuals involved in organizing the rallies and 5,000 euros ($6,063.95) for protest groups.
The ban follows student demonstrations against plans by the government to police university campuses. Clashes between protesters and police have broken out at some recent rallies.
The major opposition SYRIZA Progressive Alliance called the alleged ban on public gatherings a disguise to hold down dissent against the government and said it was “arbitrary and undemocratic.”
The KKE Communist party, which earlier had ignored prohibitions against marching in protests, said it would do again and support student demonstrations critics said are the real target of the ban said aimed at COVID-19.
The Communists said the ban will backfire and that “the government is sowing the wind and will reap the whirlwind,” New Democracy responding the issue was being politicized against the administration.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis imposed a lenient second lockdown on Nov. 7, 2019 that keeps being extended and eased at the same time but he's facing sharp criticism for being too late to bring it, seeing cases rise, and trying to stifle objections against him.