The center of the Nea Smyrni district in Athens was transformed into a war zone for several hours on Tuesday as groups of hooded men launched attacks on police with firebombs and stones, set fire to dumpsters and went on a vandalism spree.
They also brutally attacked a police officer on his motorcycle, seriously injuring him. Some of his colleagues formed a circle around him to protect him until an ambulance arrived to transfer him to hospital.
The assailants had earlier taken part in a rally attended by 5,000 people to protest against police violence, in the wake of viral footage that emerged on Sunday showing officers assaulting a man in Nea Smyrni.
Several parked cars were damaged in Tuesday’s clashes while footage posted on social media showed street dumpsters burning.
Police also found a backpack with petrol bombs and firecrackers in the neighboring district of Neos Kosmos.
Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused main opposition SYRIZA of undermining the measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus by calling for protests, amid heightened tensions since Sunday’s incident.
“SYRIZA’s official call for participation in citizen protest rallies in the midst of the pandemic is an act of great irresponsibility,” Mitsotakis said.
Mitsotakis said the call “is an affront to our healthcare workers struggling day and night.”
For its part, SYRIZA responded that the PM was in a state of “panic due to the incompetence of his government.”
It added that the only thing that is bringing people out into the streets is his government’s policies.
Meanwhile, the confrontation between the government and SYRIZA over the issue of police violence will be played out in Parliament on Friday, where Mitsotakis will respond to a relevant question by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras.
The government has accused SYRIZA of politicizing the incident last Sunday for political gain, with spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni hinting that the leftist party and its youth wings were instigating clashes with police.
This sentiment was also echoed by a barrage of statements by government officials such as Giorgos Gerapetritis, Makis Voridis and Konstantinos Kyranakis, who either directly or indirectly hinted that things were not as they seemed in the video of the incident, as 30 people had previously attacked police officers of the DIAS motorcycle unit.