The Greek government is experiencing significant resistance as it seeks to pass a new law that would restrict the right to protest.
Violence erupted Thursday as an estimated 10,000 people gathered outside parliament in Athens to protest the new bill as it went to a preliminary vote.
According to The Associated Press, a group of protesters hurled gasoline bombs at riot police as the officers attempted to contain the rally with tear gas and flash grenades.
In total, more than 40 demonstrations were held across the country, many of them backed by a leading labor union affiliated with the opposing Greek Communist Party.
The largest public sector union, ADEDY, staged a walkout Wednesday and said it supported Thursday’s protests.
“We’ll do everything possible to make sure it won’t pass,” ADEDY member Odysseas Ntrivalas told Reuters.
Protests have plagued the Mediterranean nation for more than a decade, starting in late 2009 with the onset of the worldwide economic crisis.
Syntagma Square outside parliament became the scene of massive anti-austerity protests that continued during Greece’s three internationally backed bailouts and subsequent recovery period.
Despite falling turnout, the center-right government led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis alleges that there were nearly two protests a day in May and June, and such actions disrupt economic productivity.
Civil Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis told lawmakers that the majority of Greek citizens wanted the demonstrations to be regulated.
The proposed legislation mandates restrictions on demonstrations and reserves the right of authorities to ban protests if they are deemed a threat to public safety. The bill also holds organizers responsible for any harm or damage caused by participants.
Greeks prize their right to protest, even going to so far as to include it in their national constitution. Many also believe that abuse of power by the political elite played a pivotal role in the Greek debt crisis, while older citizens fear the return of totalitarian policies that haunted country while it was under the control of a military junta from 1967 to 1974.