Security tight for Greek Independence Day parades

AP News

3/23/2012 10:13:27 AM - AP News

Authorities in Greece are implementing massive security measures for fear that anti-austerity protests could disrupt national parades to mark Greek Independence Day this weekend.

More than 5,000 police are to be mobilized in the greater Athens region, authorities said Friday, while public access to the area in front of Parliament, from where politicians and other officials will watch the parades, will be restricted.

Usually, thousands of people line the main streets of central Athens to watch the March 25 military parade, which marks Greece's uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1821.

But public anger has grown as the government has imposed yet more spending cuts and tax hikes on Greeks during a severe financial crisis. On another national day last October, the country's figurehead president was heckled and a military parade was called off due to protests.

Since then, politicians have frequently fallen victim to angry groups shouting insults or throwing yogurt or eggs at them during public appearances across the country.

Authorities will limit access to the area in front of Parliament on Sunday, and similar restrictions are expected for a parade by schoolchildren the previous day. Traffic will be banned from several streets near the parade route, while metal barricades will be set up on side streets near Parliament.

"We have a duty towards the heros of 1821 to safeguard the celebration of the anniversary, creating the conditions required by the tradition, ethos and spirit of this historic moment," said Deputy Civil Protection Minister Lefteris Economou. "Because nobody has the right to injur a national anniversary."

Two prosecutors will be on hand to deal with potential detentions and arrests of troublemakers, while security deployments will include police special forces units near Parliament and hundreds of riot police on standby.

The police union, however, issued a statement saying it objected to the "unprecedented measures."

"It is not possible for national anniversaries to be celebrated with the imposition of police measures," it said. "This is not our mission. Social problems and the anger of an entire population cannot be dealt with by suppression."