Riot police clashed with protesters in west Nicosia on Thursday, where a demonstration took place against vaccinations and health restrictions imposed by the government.
According to local media, some 80 protesters gathered at a roundabout in west Nicosia on Thursday evening, just outside the building where Sigma TV is also housed, where they blocked traffic and clashed with riot police.
Protesters started speaking against vaccinations, making their case to police who had advised the group to disband and leave the area.
“Are you going to vaccinate your own kids, no you won’t, you’ll back away” a woman asked officers, with another male protester shouting “if they knew, they wouldn’t,” and the woman adding “vaccines bring death and sterilization.”
“Guys wake up, we are losing our country,” she told fellow protesters.
A day earlier, Morphou Bishop Neophytos, whose controversial comments in the past raised eyebrows and set in motion investigations against him, issued a statement against latest measures, including the closure of shopping malls, restaurants, and worship services.
The bishop said the measures were “designed to fail” while also linking the COVID-19 vaccination to what he argued were fears over pregnancy after women in Britain were advised not to get the shot when it launched earlier this week.
There has been no evidence that mothers-to-be or women who wish to become pregnant could be harmed by the vaccine, while UK regulators clarified this week that pregnant women simply did not take part in clinical trials.
Reports also said there were violent clashes between officers and protesters after demostrators started throwing rocks at oncoming vehicles. Riot riot police fired water cannons at crowds as some protesters were using smoke bombs, while one demonstrator was said to have been injured. Three citizens were also arrested, while a Sigma reporter said police used tear gas during the clashes with two officers also injured.
Local media said the protesters originally planned to gather outside Filoxenia Conference Centre to demonstrate as members of parliament were scheduled to meet there, but they were not allowed to congregate in that part of town.
Demonstrators were also hurling insults at police as well as the CEO and TV anchor at Sigma, considered by some protesters as a pro-administration outlet, while a police negotiator approached a group asking them to disband and leave the area.
“Tsouroullis, you coward, you son of a b*tch,” a protester screamed through the loudspeaker, with fellow demonstrators chanting the slogan and later singing the Greek national anthem.
Chrysanthos Tsouroullis, who is also known as the life partner of Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis, addressed the incident later, saying he failed to understand how people would get out of their house and violate health protocols designed to protect themselves and others.
'What happened outside our media Group yesterday makes us even stronger, all of us together making a fist, consciously serving our cause and we shall carry on the same way'
“The message we took away yesterday from what happened outside the media Group is that it makes us even stronger, all of us together making a fist, consciously serving our cause and we shall carry on the same way,” Tsouroullis said.
But protesters also cited principles for their cause, arguing they were protecting their freedom.
“Why are we not allowed to demonstrate mate,” a male protester asked the officer, with another female participant heard saying “don’t we have a democracy?”
“Please leave,” the officer responded, adding “because over two people have gathered here, your demonstration is unlawful.”
“We are not unlawful,” and “we are not Turks” some protesters were heard saying in the background, citing what they said was their right to demonstrate, while also raising questions over the latest measures seen by some as harsh and not applied equally across the board.
Riot police have been called upon to handle several protests after mid-November, when the health ministry in the Republic of Cyprus issued a ban on public gatherings, including the right to a peaceful assembly, citing high risks of spreading the coronavirus that could take a toll on the country’s healthcare system.
While law enforcement showed a level of tolerance towards some gatherings, citing operational difficulties, they have defended their actions to enforce the ban as well as arrest individuals on incitement charges even ahead of scheduled demonstrations.
Police spokesperson Christos Andreou on Friday said two additional arrest warrants have been issued while investigators continued to examine video footage from the demonstration.
Andreou, who was asked about Bishop Neophytos’ comments a day earlier, said police relied on advice from the Legal Services Department which found no evidence of incitement or calling on any citizen to break the law.