COVID19: Arrests, condemnation, after stormy anti-vaccine protest

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Three people were arrested after anti-vaxxers clashed with riot police in Nicosia outside the premises of media outlet Sigma, another two are wanted for the violence condemned by the government.

Violent clashes erupted between police and protesters when demonstrators started throwing rocks at oncoming vehicles.

Police said a water cannon was used as protestors used smoke bombs, a police officer and a demonstrator were injured during the violence.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou condemned the clashes that took place on Thursday outside broadcaster Sigma.

He tweeted “acts of violence are condemnable. At this difficult time, prudence and solidarity are needed if we are to overcome the crisis”.

Director of the President’s Press Office, Viktoras Papadopoulos, condemned “actions that target media outlets just because people don’t like what its journalists are saying”.

Denouncing Thursday’s riot, acting government spokesperson Panayiotis Sentonas said: “Attacks and hate speech against media and journalists are attacks on democracy and are therefore completely reprehensible and intolerable for the Government”.

He said those in the public eye “should avoid comments or actions that could incite people to similar behaviour”.

Protesters had initially gathered at the Filoxenia conference centre, where parliament sessions are being held, but police officers prevented them from approaching the building.

Clashes took place after around 80 protesters found their way to a roundabout outside the building where Sigma TV is housed where they blocked traffic.

Police spokesperson Christos Andreou told state radio CyBC on Friday that trouble began when demonstrators got out of their cars and confronted police officers.

“At the beginning demonstrators remained in their cars, making speeches against vaccinations with police officers at the scene advising the group to disband and leave the area.

“No other intervention was made as they were not breaking the law at that time.”

Andreou said that at one point, protestors got out of their cars and approached officers asking them: “Are you going to vaccinate your own kids, no you won’t, you’ll back away…shouting ‘vaccines bring death and sterilization’.”

Three people were arrested, and another two are wanted.

Reportedly, demonstrators apart from hurling insults at police, also targeted the CEO and TV anchor at Sigma, Chrisanthos Tsouroulis considered as an advocate of tough COVID measures.

Morphou Bishop Neophytos who has declared he will not lock churchgoers out of churches this Sunday despite a ban on people attending service.

Andreou said police have found no evidence that the Bishop has been inciting people to break the law.