Demo to test police strength

Fearing severe disruptions to Olympic security and transportation schedules, police are set to prevent anti-war demonstrators from marching through central Athens to the US embassy tonight, officials said yesterday. The march is being organized at 7 p.m. by left-wing groups that object to the visit to Athens tomorrow of US Secretary of State Colin Powell. It is due to start at the old Athens University building on Panepistimiou St, and organizers plan to proceed through the center of the city to Syntagma Square, and past the Hilton Hotel to the embassy. But Public Order Ministry officials told Kathimerini yesterday there was no chance of the marchers being allowed to get past Syntagma Square, as it was imperative to keep clear the area in front of the Hilton Hotel, where many foreign dignitaries visiting Athens for the Olympics are lodged. The last time police tried to stop a major demonstration from getting past Syntagma Square was in late 1999, when then-US President Bill Clinton visited Athens. Riot control forces managed to halt the march, using copious quantities of tear gas, but in the ensuing riots dozens of banks and shops were damaged and burned. The Public Order Ministry intends to have as many officers on the capital’s streets as possible this afternoon. However, it is unclear whether it will be able to pull enough men together, as nearly all the forces in Athens are deployed in the Olympic security effort. Meanwhile, the Greek Communist Party is organizing another demonstration against Powell’s presence in Greece tomorrow morning, also starting at the old University building.

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