Greek police clash with anti-vaccine protesters in Athens (Vid)

Greek police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse a group people who had gathered in central Athens on Sunday to protest against madatory COVID-19 vaccinations.

About 5,000 people rallied outside the Greek parliament to protest against the inoculations.

Footage shared on social media showed protesters burning flares and throwing bottles at the officers, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.

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.

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 has 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.

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. Police claimed the demonstrators “threw Molotov cocktails, flares, bottles and other objects at the police forces at the scene,” prompting the officers to deter the protesters with water cannons and the “limited use of tear gas.”

Sunday’s rally took place ahead of the September 1 deadline, after which vaccinations will become obligatory for all health professionals both in private and public sectors. Those who refuse to be vaccinated and fail to produce a certificate that they have recently recovered from Covid-19 can be suspended indefinitely. Until now the policy has been in effect only for care home workers, who have been obliged to get a Covid-19 shot since August 16. The restrictions have sparked massive backlash from unionized health workers.