PM, opposition leader clash over bill to curb protests

PM, opposition leader clash over bill to curb protests

A heated parliamentary debate over government legislation that will limit public protests culminated on Thursday when Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras addressed lawmakers ahead of the vote.

The bill will allow the prosecution of protesters who attend rallies that have not been approved by the police and would make protest organizers legally responsible for damage caused during street rallies.

Mitsotakis dismissed criticism of the opposition that the bill will stifle dissent, saying that the right to assembly is fully protected.

“Today's bill will actually shield the freedom of public expression of citizens. It will shield it both from the danger of state arbitrariness and from the threat of usurpation of this right by some opponents of normalcy,” he told MPs.

Mitsotakis said the draft bill will help “clarify” Article 11 of the Constitution that protects the right to assemble and provide a “realistic implementation,” in order to define the meaning of the term “outdoor public assemblies” and to establish rules for their unimpeded conduct, “but in a way that it does not prevent the movement and work of citizens and the life a whole city.”

On his side, Tsipras described the bill as a “reactionary institutional move” against “democracy, the constitutionally guaranteed right to demonstrate, to rally, to protest.”

He said the reason why the government is passing this legislation now is because it fears the demonstrations in the fall, when citizens will feel the bite of the economic recession brought about by coronavirus.

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