Cyprus police arrested seven youngsters after a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions, corruption, and the rollout of a 5G network turned violent with four officers and a firefighter injured.
Those arrested aged between 17 to 21, were allegedly among a breakaway group of 100 people out at a 1,000-strong rally in Limassol on Wednesday.
The smaller group turned against police officers throwing stones, and Molotov bombs.
Police said the youngest suspect also had a small quantity of cannabis 21 gr) in his possession when arrested.
All seven arrested face charges of causing a disturbance, arson, malicious damage to property, illegal possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Videos posted online show a police vehicle on fire after being hit by a homemade Molotov cocktail.
According to the police, seven more vehicles were damaged from the flames of the burning police car.
Initially, organisers had pleaded with the breakaway group who were lighting flares and setting fire to waste bins to calm down and remain peaceful.
The protest, organised via social media, began in central Limassol’s Enaerios area with protesters making their way to the seafront.
They were demonstrating against government measures to combat coronavirus, which includes a night curfew for the districts of Limassol and Paphos and wearing face masks outdoors.
On the way to the seafront, the breakaway group of hooded demonstrators targeted police officers throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at them.
Police said firefighters who were rushing to put out flames in waste bins were prevented from doing so by the burning police vehicle while also being targeted by angry demonstrators.
One firefighter was injured during the incident while several officers were also hurt.
Chants during the demonstration included “burn down the parliament brothel” while protesters carried banners reading “put all MPs in jail”.
This is a reference to the ‘golden passports’ scandal in which an MP and the Parliamentary speaker resigned after being caught on camera offering to facilitate passport application of a convicted Chinese investor.
The demonstration was also against the use of 5G technology.
In a tweet on Thursday, Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis “unequivocally condemned” the ugly turn of events at the demonstration.
“Hoods, Molotov cocktails, stones, flares do not contribute to dealing with corruption or the pandemic. No tolerance for such criminal behaviour. My thoughts to members of the police who needed hospital treatment”.
Limassol has seen a number of arson attacks on installations perceived by attackers to be linked to 5G technology. Attacks were believed to also be linked to COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
Protests against COVID-19 restrictions are growing as Cyprus reported 2,175 cases in October alone with numbers of patients in hospitals ever-growing and the health system under strain.
Cyprus has so far reported 3,930 COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths.