Greek police has banned all demonstrations in Athens on Thursday in order to prevent a protest rally of the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Police Officers (POASY) at Exarchia Square.
The controversial issue of the police union demonstration at Exarchia has caused the reaction of anarchist groups that have organized a counter-rally for Thursday while threatening the police union with violence.
For years now, the Exarchia neighborhood in central Athens has been a haven for antiauthoritarian and leftist groups, inaccessible to police forces. The area has been unofficially called an “abaton” for authorities, even though criminal activity in the area is rampant.
Deputy Minister for Citizen Protection Nikos Toskas denies that Exarchia is an abaton for police, however no patrol cars or police officers on foot enter the area. Only riot police squads operate in Exarchia during the all too frequent attacks against riot police buses in surrounding streets.
According to a Real.gr report that cites reliable sources, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes activity to convince the police union to cancel their rally. Authorities fear that there will be violent clashes if the rally is carried out. At the same time, the report says, any effort by the citizen protection ministry to cancel the POASY rally would be an admittance that Exarchia is indeed an abaton for law enforcement agents.
The report further says that the Greek government has given a spin on the issue, calling the rally a ploy by main opposition New Democracy. The conservative party is accusing the government for allowing, even supporting, lawlessness in Exarchia, or simply incompetent to enforce the law in the area.
POASY and President Grigoris Gerakarakos argued that although the rally was scheduled, the police union will respect the decision to ban all demonstrations and will not go against the law, thus cancelling the rally.
In a statement, ND calls for the resignation of Mr. Toskas, stressing that the decision “confirms the government’s total failure in the field of security,” adding that “for the first time, in the most formal way, it is confirmed that Exarchia indeed constitutes an abaton.”