Thousands of police officers are to be deployed in Athens and other major cities on Sunday in a bid to maintain public order during a military parade being held to mark Greece’s Independence Day amid fears of violence or dignitaries being heckled.
Following a recent increase in attacks by angry members of the public against politicians and public figures who have expressed support for the government’s austerity drive, authorities have decided to tighten security in cities where central and local government officials are expected to appear in public. All police vacation has been cancelled for this weekend so that enough officers are available to monitor Sunday’s parade and the traditional march by schoolchildren on Saturday.
Security will be particularly tight in Athens, where President Karolos Papoulias and other dignitaries are to watch the military parade from a grandstand erected in front of Parliament. Authorities fear a rerun of events on October 28, when anti-austerity protesters forced the military parade in Thessaloniki to be called off for the first time since the annual tradition began. Papoulias was heckled by protesters who called him “traitor.”
In many parts of the country, local authorities have taken more radical steps to avert upheaval. There will be no grandstands set up in the central port of Volos and on the southern Aegean island of Rhodes, where local officials were heckled and pelted with cartons of yogurt during a parade earlier this month commemorating the anniversary of the Dodecanese island’s union with Greece.
In Thessaloniki, authorities plan to go ahead with the annual parade by schoolchildren on Sunday. Members of a local group involving local private and public sector unionists said they are planning to stage a protest against the event.
Meanwhile, in the prefecture of Imathia, teachers and pupils are planning a silent protest march to express discontent with the government and its ongoing austerity drive.