Greece: Plan to rein in protests triggers protests

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Protesters take part in a rally in favor of migrants who live in Greece, in Athens, on Saturday, June 20, 2020. Some hundreds of protesters marched against the possible discontinuation of a migrants' housing program which will leave thousands without a place to stay. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

Greece’s center-right government announced plans Monday to impose tighter controls on public demonstrations that frequently block traffic and turn violent.

But political opponents say they plan to defeat the proposals with mass demonstrations.

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The country has a long tradition of public protests, and several recent rallies have been held in support of the Black Lives Matter marches in the United States.

Under draft legislation submitted to parliament late Monday, participation in a protest rally held without police permission could be punishable by up to a year in prison.

Protest organizers may also be held liable for damage caused to public or private property during a protest, according to the text of the draft legislation posted on the Greek parliament’s website.

The government argues that the changes will protect the right to protest and stop small gatherings from causing extensive disruption to traffic.

Left-wing opposition parties, including a party that led the previous government, strongly criticized the plan, describing it as being reminiscent of a right-wing dictatorship in Greece between 1967 and 1974.

A labor union backed by the Greek Communist Party said it planned to organize mass rallies against the proposals.