NEWS

Police riot tactics defended

The use of tear gas by riot police as a way of controlling crowds of protesters is to be phased out, said Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis yesterday, as he defended the police’s recent tactic of detaining dozens of people as a precautionary measure. Officers detained some 850 people on Saturday, Sunday and Monday before and during protests to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting of teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police special guard. This led to some people criticizing the force for what were deemed to be heavy-handed tactics, with some lawyers even expressing doubt about the legality of these pre-emptive detentions. But, despite the fact that only about a dozen of those detained face felony charges, Chrysochoidis said that «targeted» detentions were a necessary part of the police operation to limit serious incidents of violence in central Athens. «We had clear indications that some people were preparing to re-enact Kristallnacht [Night of the Broken Glass] in Athens, in another pogrom of violence and hatred,» said the minister, who added that the police were aware of up to 100 plans to cause destruction in the city center. Questioned by journalists about the serious injuries suffered on Sunday by a protester when she was struck by a police motorcycle, the minister said an internal investigation had been launched to ascertain whether the officer was guilty of any offense. «It is possible that there were cases when authorities were overzealous,» he said. «I have given orders that everything should be investigated. I express my sympathy and support for the woman who was injured.» Chrysochoidis has also been using the social networking site Twitter to defend the government’s stance and police tactics. He used the site to announce that, as of January 2, all police officers would have to display identification numbers but possibly not their name and rank, on their uniform so citizens could file complaints about police behavior more easily. Chrysochoidis added that a working committee would be set up at the ministry to examine how to end the use of tear gas at protests. The minister said its use «damages public health» but did not indicate what crowd control measures the police would use instead. Also, he did not give a time frame for phasing out its use.