Parties to snub talks on protest controls

Some opposition parties will snub a meeting organized by Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras on Monday to discuss introducing restrictions on small-scale street protests, staying they do not support the idea. The minister had asked political groups, business leaders and municipal authorities to offer their views on his proposal that such demonstrations be curbed to keep the city center free of traffic congestion. Polydoras wants to examine whether marches with less than 200 demonstrators can be restricted to one traffic lane so the entire road does not need to be closed. Opposition parties have slammed the idea, which they say violates people’s constitutional right to demonstrate. PASOK officials said they will attend Monday’s talks, while representatives of Left Coalition said in a letter that they will not participate. Communist Party (KKE) leaders said from the beginning that the party is against the idea and does not want to take part in the discussions. Store owners have welcomed the idea, saying protests harm tourism and commerce. Police data show that in the 12-month period ending August 31, 2006, there were 776 demonstrations held in Athens. Of these 618 were in the city center, resulting in it shutting down to traffic. Transport experts have also backed the idea, saying that any traffic disruption in the city center has wider repercussions for the whole city.

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