Tensions were running high outside the Greek parliament on Sunday as some 7,500 protesters flooded the central Syntagma Square, waving Greek flags, chanting slogans and demanding the plan to make vaccinations mandatory for all health professionals starting September 1 be reversed.
Dozens of people were arrested in Greece after a protest against vaccine mandates for health workers spiralled into violence. Police deployed tear gas and water cannon in a bid to force the crowd to scatter.
Footage shared on social media showed protesters burning flares and throwing bottles at officers, who responded with tear gas and water cannon.
Eyewitnesses claimed that police also used stun grenades in an effort to disperse the gathering.
According to AFP, the demonstrators carried placards reading “We are not against vaccines, but against fascism.” An ambulance driver told the agency that he was flabbergasted by the decision of his hospital to put him on sick leave because he declined a Covid-19 vaccine shot, noting that as a frontline worker he had fought “for months” against the virus.
“It’s amazing that I’m put on sick leave because I refuse to be vaccinated when for months I have helped to contain the epidemic, I have worked in very difficult conditions,” he said.
Some of the protesters brought Orthodox Christian paraphernalia, such as crosses and icons, to the rally. Images shared online show a protester kneeling in front of a truck-mounted water cannon, using an icon of Jesus and Mary as a shield.
A total of 47 people have been detained in the wake of the protest, police said in a statement on Sunday evening, reported by the Greek media.