Two local community leaders in rural Nicosia were arrested on Tuesday after they physically blocked an earth digger that was prepping ground for an asphalt plant in the area.
According to local media, the local representatives of Mitsero and Agrokipia were placed in police custody on Tuesday morning during a protest against the construction of an asphalt plant, after the two men reportedly failed to comply with officers who ordered them to stand down.
'I never expected such behavior from the police but will endure this for the good of our fellow citizens' Kyriacou said
Reports said local organizers had recently warned they would escalate the protest and close traffic “without warning” while residents in the area gathered Tuesday morning to prevent excavations in the area.
At one point, protesters started walking towards a construction crew and ordered workers to “stop immediately.”
“The driver is hereby asked that he exit the machine,” a man was heard saying through a loudspeaker, with his voice getting angrier and saying “there can be no asphalt plant over here.”
Local reports said there was heavy police presence in the area as dozens of protesters screamed they wanted to have clean air in the area.
Police spokesperson Christos Andreou said the two arrested individuals had blocked the excavator and disregarded instructions by law enforcement officers who ordered them men to get out of the way.
Mitsero leader Andreas Kyriacou, who was one of the two men detained and transported to Lakatamia police station, told state radio that an early morning demonstration had been scheduled for 6:30am.
Kyriacou, who had called in while waiting to be booked at Lakatamia, said the earth digger had arrived at the scene under heavy police escort.
“I never expected such behavior from the police but will endure this for the good of our fellow citizens,” Kyriacou said.
Police said they would press charges against the two leaders who would then be released from custody.
Protesters from about a dozen communities in the broader area have been arguing that the state was siding with special financial interests, after two other asphalt plants elsewhere were ordered to be shut down following similar demostrations over pollution concerns.
Locals said they did not want a “death factory” near schools.