Police officer seriously hurt in clashes break out at Athens protest

Athens, March 9 (AFP/APP):Greek police said an officer was seriously injured in the head as clashes broke out Tuesday evening at a protest of some 5,000 people in Athens against police violence.
The demonstration follows an uproar over viral video footage showing an officer beating a man with a baton during a patrol to check that people were following Covid-19 restrictions on Sunday.
An AFP photographer at the scene of Tuesday’s protest said clashes broke out after a group of around 200 masked protesters headed towards the police station in Nea Smyrni, the calm Athens suburb where Sunday’s beating had taken place.
The demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at a police station and police responded with tear gas and water cannon, AFP reported. Around a dozen dustbins were set on fire, prompting firefighters to intervene.
Police said the injured officer had been rushed to hospital, while some protesters had been arrested even before the clashes broke out for possession of Molotov cocktails and iron bars.
Journalists and photographers at the scene also came under attack by the protesters.
According to the police, around 5,000 people overall had joined the protest against alleged police brutality, some holding banners which read “cops out of our neighbourhoods” and “parks are for laughing, not for hearing the words ‘I’m in pain'”.
The latter was a reference to the viral video footage showing a young man shouting “I’m in pain” as he was beaten Sunday at the Nea Smyrni square, a popular spot for family gatherings.
Onlookers can be heard in the footage expressing outrage at the police officer behaving this way in front of their children.
Police said they had been called to Nea Smyrni on Sunday after receiving numerous complaints about people violating Covid rules, and that they had been attacked at the scene by “30 people who injured two of our agents” — a claim local residents have denied.
Prosecutors have ordered a preliminary investigation into the beating, according to a legal source. Police have also opened an internal probe into the office filmed hitting the man.

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