The dispute over gold mines in Greece intensified this week. Police invaded the town of Ierissos and tear-gassed school children as residents protested.
The last few days have seen more incidents in the dispute over gold mines in Northern Greece. Police invaded the town of Ierissos, which is close to the mining site at Skouries, on Thursday morning whilst carrying out an investigation into an earlier arson attack. Several units of riot police were needed to enter the town as local residents gathered and erected barricades. This is the latest confrontation in a long running struggle between the people of Chalkidiki and the mining companies backed by the Greek state.
As police investigate an arson attack on a mining compound they have been accused of intimidatory and illegal tactics. On a number of occasions since February 20th the police have held residents in police stations without access to legal representation. During these detentions people have reported that they were forced to give DNA samples against their will and on one occasion a minor was taken to the police station for questioning without the presence of any adult representation. Residents have criticised police for these illegal actions.
On Thursday morning police once again moved into Ierissos to make more detentions. With police units approaching local residents rang the church bells as a warning. Hundreds of people gathered and set up barricades blocking the road into town with others going to the police station. Units of riot police then moved in with tear gas and asserted control of the town in order to conduct searches of the suspects' homes. During this invasion tear gas was fired into the local school with reports saying some children had to be taken to hospital as a result. Police spokesmen at first tried to deny tear gas was used despite videos, photos and eyewitness accounts to the contrary.
In a show of support to the residents of Chalkidiki a massive demonstration was held on Saturday in Thessaloniki. The anti-mining demonstration brought thousands to the streets with estimates ranging from 10-20,000 people in attendance. Another solidarity demonstration is planned for next week in Athens.