ATHENS – The Greek parliament on Thursday passed a bill regulating public protests amid protests staged by opposition parties and labor unions.
With the participation of 288 parliament members, the bill was adopted by a 187-101 vote. The whole event was broadcast live on the parliament’s television channel.
The bill mandates the appointment of a liaison officer, restrictions on demonstrations or outright bans if authorities deem they threaten public safety.
Some 10,000 protesters marched in the center of the capital Athens on Thursday in three separate demonstrations organized by the radical left SYRIZA party, the umbrella union of civil servants ADEDY and the Greek Communist party KKE-affiliated PAME labor union.
Claiming that the government aims to restrict public protests, groups of protesters scuffled with the police, who responded with tear gas.
In an address to parliament shortly before the vote, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that the bill is aimed at updating the framework for holding protests, especially small protest gatherings, to avoid disruptions to the public and commercial activities caused by such protests.
“The right to assemble is fully protected. It has been recognized and safeguarded, after all, by our Constitutions for one and a half centuries since 1864,” Mitsotakis said.
“According to Article 11, Greeks have the right to assemble peacefully without weapons. Only at public outdoor gatherings can police be present. Outdoor gatherings can be prohibited by a reasoned decision of the police authority in general if they pose a serious risk to public safety and in certain areas if the socio-economic life is seriously disturbed, according to law,” he added.
The bill aims to “clarify” Article 11 and rules of organizing demonstrations, respecting citizens’ right to freely move across the city, he said.
Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said that a total of 119 protests were held in May and June this year, and 112 of which led to the closure of streets.