Immigrants holding banners saying ‘Stop racist attacks; no to Islamophobia’ staged a passionate but largely peaceful demonstration in central Athens yesterday. The rally came exactly a week after a similar demonstration degenerated into violence when a small group of protesters vandalized storefronts and traffic lights.
Hundreds of immigrants and leftist sympathizers took part in an anti-racism rally in central Athens yesterday, a week after a similar demonstration prompted by the alleged defacement of a miniature Quran by a policeman escalated into clashes with riot police.
Clusters of riot police had been stationed around the city center yesterday due to fears that the migrants would clash with some 250 far-rightists who staged their own demonstration a couple of blocks away near the Athens Cathedral in protest at the growing influx of immigrants into the capital. By late last night, there had been no reports of any clashes between the two groups. One minor scuffle reportedly broke out between some migrant protesters who wanted the rally to end and others who wanted it to continue. There were reports of some minor damage to a couple of storefronts but it was unclear whether this was the work of migrant protesters or leftists who joined the rally.
Organizations representing the country’s immigrants did not participate in yesterday’s demonstration, saying that they did not want to fuel tensions or have their members branded as troublemakers. “We do not want the presence of immigrants in Aghios Panteleimonas to be linked with outbreaks of violence in the center of the capital which is also our city,” the Muslim Union of Greece said in a statement, referring to a central Athens district with a large immigrant population.
In its statement, the union also reiterated its calls for the creation of a mosque for the capital’s Muslims, something authorities promised years ago but have failed to make good on following protests by the Orthodox Church and residents at the proposed locations.