A large group of protesters flocked to downtown in old Nicosia on Wednesday, condemning a recent barricade breach at Ledra checkpoint and calling for crossings on the divided island to be shut down on a permanent basis.
According to daily Phileleftheros, organized football fans of Nicosia’s APOEL FC marched downtown in old Nicosia on Wednesday evening, showing support for the government’s checkpoint closures.
The demonstration, which had “Yes to checkpoint closings” as its main slogan, came as a response to another protest when peace activists last week defied a government order and broke through safety barricades at the Ledra checkpoint. The closures of a number of crossings were ordered on a temporary basis amid fears of a coronavirus spread, according to the government.
One person was arrested last week after videos emerged showing he had a physical altercation with a soldier, who was tasked with assisting police in crowd control.
According to Goal.com.cy, a Philenews affiliate, some 300 football fans marched downtown towards the Ledra checkpoint, chanting slogans including “hands off our soldiers,” “federalists stand down, Cyprus is Greek,” and “shut down the crossings.”
The demonstrators also chanted other slogans, including “I will climb up the dome of Agia Sofia, to take down the Turkish crescent and replace it with a cross,” and “our borders are in Kyrenia.”
Reports said there was heavy police presence during Wednesday’s march, which was described as peaceful.
Last week, critics said the checkpoint closings did not make any sense, as a number of other crossings as well as ports of entry had remained opened and no coronavirus cases had been confirmed on the ethnically-divided island.
The government insisted that specific closings, initially for seven days, were intended to assist state officials in better handling the coronavirus threat following fears that thousands of foreign students in the north came from high risk countries, such as Iran.
Officials have denied reports that closing the checkpoints was a political move, saying they were prepared to shut down more locations or reverse the decision and keep them all open based on official advice regarding the evolution of the coronavirus threat.