Cyprus police were heavily criticized over the weekend for not taking action against a large crowd of anti-maskers, who gathered outside the Presidential Palace in violation of health protocols.
Hundreds of people on Saturday gathered outside the Presidential Palace in Nicosia where they joined a demonstration with so-called conspiracy undertones against mandatory face-mask wearing, as well as protesting 5G technology and vaccinations.
The protest went on while similar demonstrations took place in European capitals, demonstrating in favour of freedom of speech and protesting against government-imposed rules to wear a face mask. Speakers at the event also argued 5G technology and vaccinations were detrimental to human health.
No arrests were made during the protest in Nicosia, sparking a debate and criticizing police on social media, with Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis also weighing in on Twitter.
'It was very difficult for police, given the circumstances, to make arrests or issue citations, because that would have caused bigger problems'
Yiolitis said she would join a meeting with police Monday morning to “clarify” the existing policy of implementing restrictive measures for crowd demonstrations.
“The goal is to clarify the policy of implementing restrictive measures against demonstrations so that those saying they are defending their constitutional rights to exercise their freedom of speech but in a way that would not impede on their fellow citizens including members of police,” Yiolitis wrote.
Police spokesperson Christos Andreou said law enforcement agents did not take action against demonstrators on Saturday, citing large crowds where arrests and citations would have caused “bigger problems.”
“It was very difficult for police, given the circumstances, to make arrests on site or issue citations, because that would have caused bigger problems,” Andreou said.
But the spokesperson added that police were planning to discuss the issue in the emergency meeting on Monday, including what ought to happen to people who violated protocols during the demonstration as well as how law enforcement could deter future violations in similar situations.
Critics of the demonstration called on people who want to protest to do without violating health protocols, while others ridiculed the anti-mask movement, saying they failed to understand the need to the measure.
Protesters were heard saying that mandating the use of face masks was unconstitutional, while a man who identified himself as a doctor also raised questions over government measures.
Similar demonstrations in other European capitals were handled differently, according to media reports, with French police issuing fines in Paris, and German officers making arrests in Berlin.
Similar protests took place in London, Vienna, and Zurich.