Police gear up for demos

Greek police may soon be equipped with rubber bullets and paint guns as the Public Order Ministry presses ahead with plans to adopt more aggressive tactics when demonstrations turn violent. The government is considering using techniques already being implemented in several European countries, including the firing of rubber bullets and paint balls to disperse demonstrators, sources have told Kathimerini. Paint balls – plastic capsules filled with liquid pigment – explode on impact, marking demonstrators and making it easier to identify them for arrest. However they cause sharp pain on impact and can result in skin burns if fired at close range. Plastic bullets are a far riskier proposition, having caused serious injuries, including blindness, and even deaths in the past. The projectiles must be fired – from a special gun – from at least 50 meters to ensure that they do not cause serious bodily harm. According to sources, the Greek police is to order a batch of 100 guns capable of firing both paint balls and plastic bullets. Several countries, including Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Germany and Russia, systematically use these techniques, and others. «Measures taken by other countries to tackle politically motivated violence can also be taken here,» government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said last week. Greece is said to be particularly interested in the «German model,» which includes the use of hidden cameras to videotape rowdy protesters with the aim of securing their conviction. There are no reports of Greek police considering the use of electric stun guns. Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras first indicated his interest in arming riot police with plastic bullets in an interview with Kathimerini last week. His comments followed heavy criticism levelled at his ministry after a spate of attacks on police stations and guard posts by suspected anarchists Three months of violent student protests this year also led to criticism of the police force, which is overseen by his ministry.