Mayor?s bid to regulate protests

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis on Monday presented draft legislation aimed at regulating the demonstrations in the capital, obliging protest organizers to compensate any riot damage, banning police from using tear gas at rallies and imposing a two-year jail sentence on rioters.

Kaminis noted that he was proposing the reform alongside ?an open, sincere and sober public dialogue? on the subject of demonstrations, which are frequent and sometimes marred by violence, and called on all political parties to join the discussion.

?On average there were three demonstrations per day in Athens last year, leading to the city center being abandoned for several hours on end,? Kaminis said, noting that even though many of the gatherings involved only a few dozen people, they often caused traffic chaos as roads were closed off to motorists.

He proposed that such small demonstrations be restricted to a single lane of traffic.

Organizers of demonstrations, be they large or small, must inform local police of their plans at least 24 hours in advance, according to the bill which calls for organizers to be accountable for any riot damage if they fail to alert authorities in advance.

Another provision in the draft bill, which is certain to fuel controversy, proposes that certain demonstrations can be banned if authorities have reason to believe that they could pose a serious risk to public safety, chiefly because of the chosen location. In such cases, police will be obliged to propose an alternative location for the rally.

Yet another controversial provision foresees the imposition of a two-year jail term on those who try to disturb a demonstration using violence.

The bill was drafted by a team of constitutional lawyers and human rights experts on a panel that also involved Kaminis.

The regulation of demonstrations has been proposed in recent years by a host of mayors and ministers but has yet to be enforced.