Saturday, June 28, 2008

Naked bike ride runs foul of police

Green activists in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki clashed with riot police during their attempt to hold a naked bike ride in order to protest excessive car use. Senior police officials, however, had warned that anyone not wearing clothes would be arrested and so the ride went ahead with the protesters clothed in beach wear and body paint.

According to protest spokesperson, Kostas Terzopoulos Thessaloniki is the dirtiest city in Europe especially in term of pollution and that excessive car use leads to massive problems with air quality and noise pollution.

Problems began when riot police closed the main road leading into the city and forcibly arrested an English protester who they claimed was naked. Amidst tense scenes the hundred or so cyclists eventually persuaded the riot police to let the bike ride continue.

Later cyclists closed the main Tsimiski St with a sit down protest in order to demonstrate against the detainment of their fellow protester who was, according to police authorities set free. They condemned the police handling of the ride as heavy handed and out of all proportion.

The Greek police force has a chequered history as far as the handling of public demonstrations and has often been the target of complaints and law suits over excessive use of force. Last September English teacher and NowPublic contributer, Craig Wherlock was hopitalised by riot police for taking pictures during a peaceful march.Whilst in November 2006 Cypriot student, Augustinos Dimitrios was savagely beaten by plain clothes officers. Despite the fact that the incident was captured by TV cameras and shown on national TV no officer has been charged with a criminal offense.

According to the national daily Eleutherotypia newspaper one person per week died in custody in Greece in 2007. Whilst the country has been convicted seven times by the European Court of Human Rights for police abuse.

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