NEWS

PM seeks to end chaotic marches

COSTIS P. PAPADIOCHOS

TAGS: Protest, Politics

The government is reportedly seeking to put an end to the disruptions caused to millions of residents by constant marches and rallies – usually by small groups – in downtown Athens.

An upsurge in the practice – which essentially holds the Greek capital hostage to the detriment not just of traffic flow but of business and tourism – has reportedly irked Prime Minister Kyriakos in particular, who, according to close associates, has regularly decried an “unacceptable situation in which a few hundred people torment an entire city.”

According to reports, the government is examining various methods to deal with the issue. These include allowing the use of one lane of traffic for small marches, so that major roads are not closed off entirely as has been the case for years.

The use of pavements will be allowed for even smaller marches so that traffic is not disrupted.

For larger marches, the route used will be a specific one in order to make it easier for police to manage traffic, while for demonstrations and rallies a specific gathering area will be designated, like, for instance, a section of central Syntagma Square.

The government is expected to begin a series of “internal consultations” within the week to formulate a package of proposals which will be discussed with local and municipal authorities, as well as labor unions.

The PM’s aides say that, if necessary, the government is even prepared take legislative initiatives, though they insist it will seek to reach the widest possible consensus first.

However, the guiding principle informing the government’s stance on the matter is the fact that “in addition to the right of assembly, there is also the right to freedom of movement.”

According to the official police data, a total of 1,713 demonstrations, marches and rallies took place in the first half of 2019, leading to the deployment of 43,709 police offices. The overwhelming majority of these events took place in Athens.

In 2018, 3,514 demonstrations and rallies took place across the country, which led to the deployment of 106, 970 officers.

The crackdown on unregulated marches and demos is part of a wider initiative the government claims will make Athens a viable and functioning city.

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