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Thousands Of Officers, Tear Gas Used To Disperse Large Gatherings And Protests In Greece

(Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

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Protesters in Greece were sprayed with tear gas while others were detained during scuffles Tuesday in Athens as hundreds took to the streets to defy a ban on large gatherings and commemorate the anniversary of the crushing of the 1973 student uprising against the military leaders then ruling Greece.

Typically Nov. 17 is commemorated with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Athens Polytechnic to remember those who died there, according to the Associated Press (AP). Marchers then head to the U.S. Embassy because the U.S. backed the dictators that ruled Greece.

However, due to the pandemic and the strain on hospitals due to a recent surge in the coronavirus, the government banned marches this year and banned gatherings of more than four people between Nov. 15-18 in an attempt to prevent any large demonstrations, per the AP.

Counter-protesters called the lockdown “authoritarian,” according to Reuters.

Left-wing opposition parties, who unsuccessfully tried to get Greece’s highest court to declare the ban unconstitutional, and a Communist Party-backed union defied the ban, gathering Tuesday morning outside the U.S. embassy. The roughly 200 people wore masks, maintained social distancing and marched in formation, chanting “The Polytechnic lives, out with the Americans,” per the AP. (RELATED: Anti-Lockdown Protests Erupt Across Northern Italy)

Protesters later gathered in central Athens while still practicing social distancing. However, police detained several protesters and used tear gas and a water cannon to break up the others.

Former prime minister Alexis Tsipras who also heads the opposition Syriza party, attended one of the protests Tuesday.

“We broke the senseless ban,” he said in a social media post, per the AP. “Democracy and historical memory cannot be quarantined.”

Greece is under lockdown through Nov. 30 and requires everyone to wear a face mask.